A petition is circulating among UNC students and town residents this week that seeks to overturn a Chapel Hill ordinance which bans more than four unrelated individuals from living in the same residence.
Outgoing UNC Student Body President Christy Lambden, who is advocating for people to sign the petition on Facebook, said that many students have never heard of this ordinance. He said many are being fined high fees, and some have been evicted.
Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said a discussion concerning the ordinance is not on the Council’s agenda at this time, but added that a petition is one way to get it on the agenda.
“What I would like, though, is to use it as an opportunity to have a broader conversation around student housing and student experience in our neighborhoods,” Kleinschmidt said.
Kleinschmidt said he has heard that petitioners will likely bring the matter before the Council during Monday’s business meeting, at which point it will be referred to town staff.
“The Council I think will hesitate to repeal this ordinance unless they can be assured that these unneighborly kinds of behaviors can be addressed effectively another way,” he said.
In December, town officials said they were stepping up enforcement of the policy in response to complaints from residents.
The ordinance was enacted years ago to address noise complaints, trash issues and vehicles parking illegally in the street, clogging the roads.
“About 10 years ago, I asked the Council to think about how effective this policy was,” Kleinschmidt said. “I actually asked the Council to repeal it back when I was a Council Member. I did that so it would force a conversation.”
The ordinance imposes a $100-per-day fine for the first offense, with penalties going up to $500 per day for subsequent violations. Those fines are actually imposed on the owner of the house, but students have complained that the burden is falling on the renters.
Kleinschmidt said landlords are supposed to help educate their tenants about the ordinance and its penalties, though it doesn’t always happen.