There is a new form of the neighbourhood watch program at Western and it has very little to do with loving thy neighbour.
Western's new residence proposal for University Drive is stirring up a backyard war with the boys and girls next door. The uncertainty over the size, shape and location of the building that will house 400 first-year students, is setting off a number of alarms in the surrounding community as though the university is a masked burglar trying to break into the nearby homes and steal their privacy.
The loudest complaints are that building a new residence will increase the amount of noise, decrease the amount of privacy for the surrounding residents and, as a result, lower the property value of every house within beer bottle throwing distance. Switching of the residence from four storeys to five storeys is also disproportionate to the neighbouring buildings on University Drive and will create shadow problems on Tower Lane (located behind the site).
It is a situation filled with unfortunate answers.
Should the community complain? Yes. But, unfortunately, there is nothing that says the administration has to listen. It is university property and it can be used as the university wishes.
Only three people voted against the residence being built in that location in a Board of Governors meeting and there is a very good reason for that it is the best place on campus to put a residence.
The Board had nine other sites in mind, including putting the residence on the Springett parking lot. But with cars already fighting for spaces in campus lots, taking away any existing parking spaces would be adding an additional problem. In the end, the University Drive location won hands down.
Western President Paul Davenport has said that in the past, when London residents and students have come to blows, neighbours have requested more on-campus housing. Now that the university has decided to house all first-year students on-campus, the surrounding community does not like the location. It appears the university can't win.
Adding another residence to the already three presently in that vicinity will be great for the new students who live in the other residences. Residence councils will be able to organize more inter-residence programming and student interaction outside of their building will increase.
This doesn't just mean administration can throw down the dictatorial iron fist. The concerns of community members must be addressed and the open meetings held between neighbouring residents and administration are good steps to bringing some understanding of the issue to both sides.
Compromise is most important during this stage of talks, because the issue has now moved from one of location to how the actual physical plans of the building are carried out.