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William and Mary students will be moving into new digs this fall following a decision by Williamsburg City Council Thursday.
The City Council voted 4-0 to rezone a Days Inn near Matoaka Court on Richmond Road into student housing. Councilman Scott Foster recused himself due to his wife’s employment at the college.
“In my opinion the best option we have today is to move forward with the proposal in some form,” Mayor Paul Freiling said Thursday. “But to do everything we can, continuing the conversation with the college to mitigate collateral impact of this facility on the neighborhoods.”
With the city’s approval, students should be living in renovated hotel by the beginning of the 2017-18 Academic Year, according to the proposal.
Thursday’s decision comes after William and Mary Real Estate Foundation filed two requests with the city. The college’s goal was to renovate the 102-room hotel and use the facility as a dorm for 180 students.
To do so, the city had to amend zoning ordinances to allow and define “student dormitory” as well as amend the zoning density requirements in the district. The college also requested a special use permit to allow a student dorm on the Days Inn property.
Several city residents spoke at last month’s Planning Commission meeting, voicing their concerns about having 180 students living adjacent to or mere blocks from their home.
“I live on Matoaka Court, and I’ve lived there for about five years now and it is a gem of a neighborhood,” Harmony Dalgleish, assistant professor of biology at William and Mary, told the Planning Commission. “I think putting a dorm practically on my street is going to destroy that.”
In light of the concerns, the Planning Commission voted 2-1 to approve the foundation’s proposal, but with several conditions, including a 10-year “sunset clause” to limit the length of the special use permit.
“Our neighborhoods are fragile. There’s no question,” said Councilman Doug Pons. “I’ve had the honor to serve on the Planning Commission and City Council now for over 15 years and this is an ongoing question we’ve had…Be that as it may I think it’s the right thing to do to support the College in this.”
Pons said he has been living in the nearby neighborhood of College Terrace for 40 years.
While City Council approved to rezone the property, the city has its own caveats. The Council voted in favor of a 10-year “sunset clause,” as well as the installation of bike racks, fences and landscaping. The college must also submit a parking plan to the City Manager’s Office before the opening of the dorm.
However, the Council voted to allow 180 students to live in the Days Inn, rather than the 80 recommended by the Planning Commission.
“I think it was really thoughtful,” Sam Jones, William and Mary’s Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration, said of the Council’s decision. “They listened to all the pros and cons that go along with the project. I think they accepted our commitment that we were listening to the neighbors.”