Student housing moratorium shelved

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The Orono Town Council recently decided to end talks – for now – of a proposed student housing moratorium.

The possibility of a moratorium arose this summer, when the committee updating the comprehensive plan identified the need for a better balance between student rentals and continued home ownership opportunities in established neighborhoods. The committee recommended defining “student homes” as a specific type of land use and limiting their number in zoning districts primarily designed for single- and two-family homes.

It was recommended that the council consider a moratorium on any new student homes in several zones. Those would include Medium Density Residential, Low Density Residential, Shoreland Limited Residential, and possibly the Forestry and Agriculture District.

Initial comments earlier this year on the possibility of a moratorium and limiting student housing in the future have been mixed. Some residents have maintained allowing student housing everywhere, particularly in quiet residential neighborhoods, impacts quality of life; other residents have said they see nothing wrong, and that there should be no moratorium. Opposition to the proposal was stronger at a public hearing earlier this fall, with numerous residents saying they thought the moratorium was unnecessary and unfairly singled out students.

At a committee meeting a couple weeks ago, councilors, who themselves could not reach agreement on the need for a moratorium, decided to put the issue to rest for now,. They left that decision open-ended, however, and could decide to revisit the idea of enacting a moratorium at a later date.

One group is exploring another possible solution – making landlords more accountable for the action of their tenants. That group reportedly plans to present a plan t the council this spring.