Officials Join Forces on Housing Regulations

Colleen Garrison, Copy Editor

University officials are working with local municipalities to maintain residential zoning regulations.
At the Dallas Township supervisors meeting on March 17, Bill Grant, Dallas Township supervisor, said he met with Robert Zavada, associate director of campus safety, and Amy Lahart, dean of students, to discuss options to control occupancy of local houses rented by students.
“We want to protect the homes and our residents. More houses are being converted to rental units so we have concerned parties. Misericordia wants to work with us,” said Grant.
A resident addressed officials at the meeting and said the occupancy of a privately owned house located in a neighborhood near campus exceeds the maximum number of residents allowed by zoning ordinances.  The resident stated that more than four students live there.
The resident said students are not causing any disruption in the neighborhood. However, he is concerned about the future and the possibility of a greater influx of students.
Elizabeth Martin, vice chairman of the board of supervisors, said several township officials are aware of the situation.
“We are working on an amendment and using neighboring municipalities for guidance. The police, zoning officials, and road master are also providing their input to make the amendment more comprehensive,” said Martin.
Martin said an article will run in local newspapers to notify residents and raise awareness about the zoning regulation amendment once it is finalized.
“We will get this straightened out,” said Martin.
Zavada has collaborated with Carl Alber, Dallas Township zoning officer, on an updated procedure for monitoring student housing in the neighborhood.
“We are being proactive.When we receive a request from an owner who wants to post their house as a rental on a bulletin board, they send a notice to Student Activities and Amy Lahart forwards the notice to me. I pass it on to Carl Alber who will inspect the property as he sees fit,” said Zavada.
Zavada works with zoning officials in Dallas Township, Kingston Township, Dallas Borough and other outlying municipalities.
“We cooperate by providing any information we have in our files to try to lead the officials in the right direction,” said Zavada. “Officials from the municipalities would have to make contact with the landlord and do inspections.”
Zavada said students need to be cautious and do some research when choosing a rental unit.
“All municipalities have different ordinances. Some towns and boroughs require an extensive inspection process.  Students should check with a municipality to be sure that the rental property adheres to the ordinances.”
Zavada said that safety should always be students’ primary concern when they search for a place to live.
“It needs fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, and it needs to be up to code. If a landlord isn’t following ordinances, a house can be shut down and the students would become displaced. Bloomsburg has had multiple people living in houses without any safety equipment available. No fire alarms, smoke detectors or anything like that and there are tragedies because of it. That is what we are trying to avoid.”
Supervisors will discuss the ordinance issue at a zoning hearing at the Dallas Township Building on Thursday, April 9 at 7 p.m.