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Zoning laws main topic of concern for Council

Madeline Buckley | Thursday, February 5, 2009

Continuing the examination of student relations with the South Bend community, the Student Senate hosted 4th district Common Council member Ann Puzzello to present South Bend residents’ side of the story Wednesday.

Puzzello said the community is grateful because it has seen a decrease in noisy student parties, but she asked for better communication than there has been in the past.

She said the relationship between the University and the community does not have to be a love/hate one, as long as there is direct communication about issues such as student parties and zoning laws.

“I think the two groups can work together quite well,” Puzzello said. “There are ways you can be neighbors, instead of isolated from the community.”

A disregard for zoning laws – which limit houses where more than two unrelated people are allowed to live – by students looking to live off campus is a problem that plagues the community, Puzzello said. A lot of houses are turning into student housing that should not, especially in the Harter Heights neighborhood, directly south of campus, near Notre Dame Avenue and Angela Boulevard.

“I think a lot of problems we have wouldn’t exist if the housing was legal,” she said.

Student body president Bob Reish said informing students about which houses are correctly zoned is a goal of student government.

Regarding student parties off campus, Puzzello said problems can be avoided if the parties are kept small and indoors.

“Don’t have several hundred people at a party,” she said. “No one has several hundred friends.”

Puzzello said the city’s primary concern is the comfort and safety of its residents, and when people are complaining about being awakened at 3 a.m. because of student parties, the police and the city have to act.

Reish then questioned whether or not off-campus students are considered part of the South Bend community.

“Off-campus students who go to Notre Dame are in a unique position because they are only immersed in the community for one or two years,” Reish said.

Puzzello said she encourages students to come to Common Council committee meetings and call her with any concerns they have relating to the community.

But, she said, this kind of relationship is a two way street.

“I’m glad for anyone to call me,” Puzzello said. “There’s a lot that needs to go on between South Bend and Notre Dame for us to feel comfortable though.”

Puzzello said the University’s administration does not help the city with enforcing zoning laws that students are breaking, or with the issue of student parties. Many problems that concern South Bend do not seem to be a top priority with the administration, she said.

“I think you know you are welcome in the community, but we haven’t had that reciprocate situation from the administration to be honest,” she said. “We are associates with Notre Dame and we love it, but we would love a little bit of communication.”

Reish said student government is attempting to bridge the gap between Notre Dame and South Bend.

“I think the University and the community have a lot to offer each other, but there is a disconnect in the communication,” he said.

Puzzello agreed.

“Let’s make it better,” she said.

In other Senate news:

u Social Concerns Committee chair Michelle Byrne said the committee is hosting Communiversity Day on April 4. The goal is to get 1,000 students to spend the day doing various service projects in the South Bend community.