University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto said he is willing to revisit UK's alcohol policy as the school begins developing a new master plan of how it will grow and develop its campus.
The alcohol policy, which took effect in 1998, banned all alcohol on campus, pushing more student housing and student parties into nearby neighborhoods. Combined with a lack of new housing at UK, many of the surrounding neighborhoods have turned into student corridors, filled with rental houses with big additions — allowed by the city until two years ago — that cram numerous people into one address.
"I think any and all issues the neighborhoods raise ... need to be discussed more," Capilouto said Tuesday at a meeting with the Herald-Leader editorial board. "So we've got to look at it, it's not just alcohol wet or dry, it's responsible use of alcohol by every student on our campus."
A recent study commissioned by the city found that during the past two decades, neighborhoods such as Montclair have seen the percentage of rental housing spike from about 10 percent to 50 percent, while those even closer to UK, such as Aylesford and Columbia Heights, have rates closer to 80 percent and 90 percent.
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Elizabeth Street, the center of a massive celebration after UK won the NCAA men's basketball championship in April, has seen its rate of rental units increase from 45 percent to 64 percent during the past 20 years. Corresponding data on the percentage of non-family households largely matches these trends.
Capilouto said he spent a recent evening walking around Elizabeth and State Streets until 1 a.m., although it happened to be a quiet evening.
"This whole issue of zoning and ordinances is a fascinating one to me, because it's going to take a combination of lots of levers to stabilize neighborhoods, to recapture neighborhoods," he said.
UK has hired the Boston firm of Sasaki and Associates to assist in the master plan process, which has become paramount now that UK is planning to replace 5,000 dorm beds and add another 4,000 beds on campus.
Capilouto pledged to work with neighborhoods, businesses, churches, the city and anyone affected by UK's growth and development. For example, both UK and the city are concerned about the explosion of student apartment complexes on South Broadway, where there are few amenities, such as groceries, within walking distance.
Sasaki representatives have already started meeting with neighborhood associations, including one Monday evening with the Aylesford, Transylvania Park, and Columbia Heights neighborhood associations.
Neighbors at the meeting expressed several concerns, including late night student parties and the negative impact of party houses and fraternity houses on residential areas.
"It's imperative to get these intensive uses like fraternity houses out of the neighborhoods," said Jim Dickinson of the Transylvania Park Neighborhood Association.
Neighbors wanted to know what provisions were being considered by Sasaki and UK to encourage faculty and staff to live in nearby neighborhoods.
One idea proposed was for UK to buy two or three houses a year, fix them up and then sell them at cost to faculty and staff.
Capilouto sat in on the meeting with neighbors.
"What happens in your neighborhoods has an impact on our campus," Capilouto said Monday, adding that he hoped to have a campus that was greener and more pedestrian friendly with more effective transportation systems, such as bike paths and a bus system that crisscrosses campus.
The Sasaki firm and university officials were scheduled to meet with property owners in the Elizabeth Street area on Tuesday night. On Sept. 26, they will meeting with Pralltown and Historic South Hill residents.
"We are committed to being better neighbors at lots of different levels," Capilouto said Tuesday. "All of us here have to come together to get this better and make it right."
For more information on the UK master plan process, go to http://www.uky.edu/EVPFA/Facilities/MasterPlan/