Post Author: dollinca
This pictures shows students at the September 12, 1978 city council meeting. The crowd was so large, citizens and students were forced to sit on the floor or stand against the wall. The Breeze, September 15, 1978, page 3. Photo by Lawrence Emerson.
The issue of residential zoning was the most effective way in which Harrisonburg residents could assure that they would be “safe” from the intrusion of Madison students into their neighborhoods. With the precedence of the TKE house takeover in 1976, Harrisonburg residents petitioned again in 1978 for stricter zoning ordinances. According to the Daily News Record, over 2,800 students lived in residential zones of Harrisonburg.(Laymen).
.In an Breeze article, it was stated that Harrisonburg residents had been lobbying the city council for new zoning regulations since March of 1977. It was then when Harrisonburg residents formed a petition to call for zoning changes. Another petition was created in August 1978. The ordinances contemporary to September 1978 stated that six unrelated residents could inhabit a dwelling in zone R-3 while up to four unrelated residents could live in zones R-1 and R-2.(Yard) Residents cited lack of parking, noise, and litter as reasons for their unhappiness. A city council meeting was thus held on September 12 to discuss plans to address the residents’ complaints.
A double capacity crowd of over 150 attended the meeting. The Daily News Record described the scene, stating that “the walls were lined with standers and almost all free floorspace attracted campfire-style sitters.”(Laymen) Various citizens’ groups such as Citizens for the Preservation of the Single Family Zone and the South Mason Street Neighborhood Association raised awareness among residents and attracted many homeowners to to the meeting. Also in attendance were students living in the threatened zones, Darrell Pile, the president of the JMU student body, and commuter student committee members. The city council thus heard contentious debate from both sides of the housing issue..
.Harrisonburg residents cited their usual gripes throughout the session: too much noise, not enough parking, and too much litter after parties.Even city planning commissioner Robert Sulliven had his opinions of students, stating in an interview with The Breeze “They park their cars on the lawn, throw their beer cans around, and keep the volume on the stereo up until the neighbors call the police.”(Yard) Residents together lobbied for a reduction in zone R-3 from six unrelated guests to four. The residents did not bother with zone R-2, however argued much for recuding the number of unrelated inhabitants in R-1 from four to two. R-1 would thus become the most restrictive zone in the city.(Laymen) According to The Breeze, these amendments could effect 1500-1800 students.(Yard)
Student responses came quick. These neighborhoods were attractive because of their proximity to campus and their affordability. The students told the council that the laws should be enforeced better, loud parties should be broken up, and illegally parked cars should be ticketed. The President of the Student Body, Darrell Pile, even proposed to create a community relations committee to create better communication. Furthermore, commuter student Jacob Saylor added that pushing students further from campus will only add to the congestion in the city.(Laymen)
Fault for the current crises was largely placed on the shuolders of the James Madison University Administration who were keeping a distance from the debate. Homeowner Greg Coffman blamed the expansion under President Carrier for the problems, stating “JMU doesn’t provide enough housing for students…you can’t blame the kids for wanting to get off campus.”(Yard) Nonetheless, the consensus was that there was a lifestyle divide between both parties which was unnacceptable to the community..
.The city council barely deliberated the proposed amendments and quickly approved the proposed amendments, putting them up for a vote at the next city council meeting. If the amendments passed the next vote, they would become law........
.Laymen, Ellen, “City Tightens Housing and Parking Rules,” Daily News Record. September 13, 1978. Page 21, 32..
.Yard, Debbie. “Proposed Zone Changes Aimed at Commuters,” The Breeze. September 12, 1978. Page 1