EMC News – Sandy Hill home owners have butted heads with students living in the area over issues such as noise and garbage, but this fall the community’s new Town and Gown Committee will be in full swing working to keep the peace between both sets of residents.
“The goal is to try and address problems before they become problems,” said Christopher Collmorgen, president of Action Sandy Hill.
Steps away from the University of Ottawa, Sandy Hill is a desirable neighbourhood for new and returning students. Action Sandy Hill, the area community association, wanted to see positive changes in the community that neither excluded students from living near the university nor denied home owners peace and mind.
Collmorgen, along with Action Sandy Hill board member Sam Almsaddi and two Ottawa police officers went to the University of Western Ontario in London for a presentation on their Town and Gown Committee in 2011.
The Town and Gown committee serves as a forum to address and resolve issues in neighbourhoods surrounding a university campus. Collmorgen recognized the committee’s value and has been working with city bylaw staff, Rideau-Vanier Councillor Mathieu Fleury’s office, the police, the university and the students association to form Sandy Hill’s own Town and Gown Committee.
The terms of reference were officially signed on Aug. 27 and a strategy for the fall semester was also announced.
“We feel we are all working together for a common goal,” Collmorgen said. “It feels very different this September.”
The strategy, he explained, is geared towards education. There will be door-to-door campaigns, flyers and brochures for students to read up on everything from by-laws to the association’s monthly meetings and events.
The focus will be on problematic addresses – not to single them out, but to try and mitigate the issues.
In the past, the association has attempted to reach out to the new and returning students who live in rentals in the neighbourhood with community barbecues, door-knocking campaigns with the city and police, as well as inviting students to sit on their Action Sandy Hill board.
But this year, Collmorgen said, will be the first time that students will participate in the campaign.
“There will be about 20 to 25 students participating in a peer-to-peer campaign,” he said. “It is what has been missing in the past.”
University of Ottawa housing service director Michel Guilbault has been working with Collmorgen on the strategy set in place for September.
“Clearly for us we wanted to build awareness with students to respect the community,” Guilbault said. “We are committed to being a good neighbour.”
Having students speak to fellow students, Guilbault added, should create a positive impact for the message the committee is trying to spread.
The police will also participate in the education process and announced starting on Sept. 6 members of the force will be knocking on doors informing residents about safe behaviours, being a good neighbour and the dangers of alcohol consumption.
“Students are an important part of the community and we want to ensure they have all the information needed to have fun and be a positive contributor to their neighbourhoods,” said acting police Supt. Uday Jaswal.
The officers will be joined by Fleury and his staff, bylaw officers and representatives from the university and Action Sandy Hill.
“We are hoping in a couple of years, this will not be much of an issue anymore and this September strategy will be only maintenance,” Collmorgen said.
On top of the education, the city will be sending out garbage trucks on a more frequent basis to keep up with trash generated by the thousands of students moving into housing.
A community garage sale, organized by the association, will be held for the entire Sandy Hill area on Sept. 8. The annual welcome barbecue, also organized by the association, will be on Sept. 15.
With a strategy in place Collmorgen said he is pleased to see the community moving forward on this complex issue.
“I think we got it this year,” he said.
Guilbault plans on following up with the door campaign. He will be speaking with the students who participated as well as going on a ride-a-long with a bylaw officers during the move-in weekend.
The Town and Gown Committee plans on meeting three times a year, with sub-committees meeting more frequently.