EMC News – A new pilot project starting up in Sandy Hill will bring university students and home owners together to create a better community dynamic after years of disputes between transient renters and homeowners.
The constant problem of noise, garbage, parking and poor property standards in Sandy Hill made residents finally say enough is enough. Christopher Collmorgen, president of Action Sandy Hill, said the community association began to investigate what happens in university neighbourhoods in other cities to shed light on some best practices currently in use.
Collmorgen, Action Sandy Hill board member Sam Almsaddi and two Ottawa police officers went to the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont. for a presentation on its “town and gown” committee, which serves as a forum to address and resolve issues surrounding student neighbourhoods.
After the presentation, Collmorgen said he knew the town and gown committee was the answer for Sandy Hill.
“If you want to live in a tight knit and cramped area like Sandy Hill, you want to be able to get along,” he said. “I am hoping this new committee just brings everyone together and the community closer.”
Working with residents, students, university staff, city staff, police and a representative from Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury’s office, the committee will address everything from garbage to parties to 311 calls and police calls.
“I learned it can be better than it is and the support we have received from the university and the councillor has been great,” Collmorgen said.
In a neighbourhood where residents have become more and more frustrated by calling the police or the city or even the university with complaints and seeing no permanent resolution to the problems, Collmorgen said he believes the town and gown committee will result in action.
In other areas, building a town and gown committee has taken time, some over the course of decades. Collmorgen said he hopes this committee takes off quickly.
“We are hoping to have a big, focused approach and have the committee running smoothly in three to five years,” Collmorgen added.
This is not the first step the neighbourhood and the University of Ottawa have taken to resolve issues in the area.
Alastair Mullin, director of government relations, is the university’s representative on the good neighbours committee, which was established three years ago to address some of these issues.
“The good neighbours committee has been running through the university and started about two or three years ago,” Mullin said. “It has always been open to the public and a forum to exchange ideas and we have done some interesting stuff … The town and gown is an extension of that and we hope to engage every one.”
The good neighbours committee has addressed garbage collection and waste disposal, encouraged students to donate furniture when they move and has been a way the university saw to engage with the community.
Collmorgen said the good neighbours committee has served some residents and students, but the new town and gown committee will offer much more structure.
The importance of Fleury’s staff, some of whom are still enrolled at the university, has been integral to the creation of the committee.
“Some of his staff are still students here and they understand both the residents and student issues,” Mullin said. “It has been a very positive influence.”
Sandy Hill is not alone in its experience with students and there are a number of other areas, such as South Keys, which could benefit from a town and gown committee.
“This isn’t just a Sandy Hill issue,” Collmorgen said. “This is an Ottawa issue. I look at the issues South Keys is dealing at and I think, this is where we were a year ago.”
He said as Sandy Hill learns from the process, he looks forward to sharing the experiences with community associations and student associations across the city.
The good neighbours committee will continue to function in the community until the town and gown is ready to absorb the responsibilities.