UK has right mix in panel on campus drinking

The 1998 alcohol ban on the University of Kentucky campus pushed drinking off campus, for sure, but not very far.

What had been stable neighborhoods surrounding the campus became, in some cases, student ghettos where, particularly on game weekends, homeowners were confronted with drinking, noise, heavy traffic, trash and even couch burning on their once-quiet streets.

A lack of housing on campus also contributed to huge, ugly additions to modest single-family homes, transforming them into near-dorms. Not surprisingly, the percentage of rental housing spiked in these areas, rising from about 10 percent pre-ban to 50 percent, even 90 percent in some neighborhoods.

President Eli Capilouto has, since he came to UK in 2011, moved quickly to ease the pressure on the neighborhoods, most notably by initiating construction to replace 5,000 dorm rooms on campus and add another 4,000.

This week he took another important step by appointing a task force to review the university's alcohol policy. Importantly, this 15-member group includes the city's planning commissioner, the council member whose district includes UK and the neighborhoods, and a neighborhood representative.

As Capilouto said last year, "it's going to take a combination of lots of levers to stabilize neighborhoods, to recapture neighborhoods."

A task force alone, of course, is not a solution. But Capilouto's recognition that UK is in this together with the community is a large step toward, as he says, recapturing neighborhoods.