Posted May 25, 2014
In a wide-ranging interview with the Guelph Mercury, U of G President Alastair Summerlee, said, “one of the really neat things about the Guelph community is that we’ve had students sort of spread out and that I think is good for each of the different pockets of the city.”
And he added: “ Getting away from that model and gathering students much more densely may create ‘be careful what you wish for’ scenario for Guelph where noise, ‘instant partying’ and related troubles become much more live issues.”
Really! I guess in his 11-year term of office, that saw the student population grow almost 90 per cent, the president did not get out much in the community.
He reveals why the city and university share a collegial relationship. During an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing, this “relationship” opposed an off-campus large student housing project at the corner of Gordon Street and Stone Road. It was just across the street from the university campus.
The OMB approved the project, rejecting the argument that the behaviour of the resident students could not be controlled by the university, and would cause problems to residents in the area.
Yet, Mr. Summerlee brags about how off-campus student housing in many single family zoned neighbourhoods described it as a “really neat thing about the Guelph community.”
So this is how the collegial arrangement works between the city and university. The city administration allows these quasi mini-apartments to be created. Then fails to enforce its own bylaws that guarantee peace and goodwill among neighbors. It is prevalent in wards five and six areas that are occupied by residents who never dreamed that their new student neighbours would behave badly failing to meet the established standards of the neighbourhood.
There has been a lack of bylaw enforcement; police protection and owners of many of these student lodgings don’t even live in Guelph. There is little or no supervision by landlords. Many neighbourhoods are terrorized by loud parties, music and the sale of alcoholic beverages by student entrepreneurs.
Hardly any of this is reported in the press.
It is difficult to believe that the university president was not aware of the breakdown of relations between his students and residents in areas throughout wards five and six.
It appears, through his own words, that he is indirectly opposed to the proposed rental-licensing bylaw that is before council. It is designed to force landlords to control the homes they have converted to student use. Also to allow bylaw officers more access to check the student homes for safety and building standards.
It’s also no surprise that the landlords, collectively, have waged a strong campaign opposing the proposed licensing bylaw. So much so that passage may not occur during this council’s mandate. The can could be kicked down the road.
In his interview the president commented on how in 11 years on the job, he feels he has been successful in bringing city council and the university administration together and achieving common goals.
Last year the university announced it has a $34 million operating deficit. This resulted in layoffs and program cutbacks. Then it was revealed that the university pension plan was seriously underfunded and was not included in the balance sheet as a liability.
Starting to see some similarities here? The city has spent its way into a similar position where revenues are not matching expenditures. In the case of the city, it must juggle the books to report a balanced result annually to the Province.
This is why your property tax bills have increased by 35 per cent in eight years. This is why your water bills have increased by 77 per cent. This is why user fees have doubled in some cases. This is why the Mayor is musing about new special tax levies to carry out her dream of creating a new Guelph.
Perhaps citizens should think carefully about electing those councillors who have blindly supported the ambitious expansion of the university.
The imminent departure of President Summerlee should coincide with Mayor Farbridge and her seven cohorts being defeated next October 27.
But then the president doesn’t have to run for office and citizens have a choice to change the way the city is being run.