Program Puts Neighborhood Issues Front and Center

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It's a plan designed to tackle neighborhood issues head on, and College Station officials think it's a win-win for everyone.

The program is called the Neighborhood District and Corridor Planning Program.

"We've started in the older areas of our city," said Jennifer Prochazka, with Planning & Development Services. "Generally, going neighborhood by neighborhood to engage the neighbors to see what the issues are in those neighborhood, and how the city can enhance the character of those neighborhoods."

Prochazka said it all comes down to meetings. The city hosts regular meetings with residents in the neighborhood. The goal is for people to talk about and decide on what issues are affected them the most.

Once everything gets hashed out, Prochazka said the items go before the Planning and Zoning Commission and city council for approval.

"Once that plan is approved, that's an adopted policy with the City of College Station. And ordinances are created and construction projects get under way to help implement those plans," said Prochazka.

The Southside neighborhood recently went through the program. Tops on their list were things like parking issues and safety for children walking to and from school.

Scott McDermott has lived in Southside for 16 years. He said while there's still work to be done, he's happy with the results.

"It's a step in the right direction. It's addressing issues of the people within the particular areas," McDermott said. "As opposed to someone from the outside coming in and saying these are the changes we think you need."

Among the changes expected to come to Southside as a result of the program include an ordinance for maximum amount of front yard parking, an ordinance requiring one parking space per bedroom, sidewalks around the schools, more pro-active code enforcement, intersection improvements, street lights and water and sewer upgrades.

South Knoll residents also recently went through the program. Their list went up for Planning and Zoning Commission approval at Thursday night's meeting.

Charles Barr has lived in South Knoll for 31 years. He said their biggest issue is student housing. As older homes go up for sale, investors buy them up and, often time, rent them out to college students. Barr said he doesn't have a problem with the students, but does have issues with their lifestyle.

"It's 24-hour a day traffic. It's parties, many nights of the week, unkept yards, trash cans left at the curbs," said Barr. "It gets as bad as public urination."

Barr and his group focused not only on changing policies related to the issue, but enforcing the ones already on the books. He said he and others have seen several homes in the area with more than the maximum allowed occupants living inside.

Prochazka said while there are codes regarding some of the issues South Knoll residents want addressed, there's nothing new on the table to deal with the problem. Parking restrictions included. If the South Knoll plan passes council approval, it could mean big changes for the area.

So far, the city has worked with several neighborhoods, including Central College Station, Eastgate and Wellborn.