Friction in the neighborhood surrounding Cayuga Community College caused by residents leasing rooms to students led the school to more closely scrutinize its process for approving off-campus housing.
Earlier this year, complaints of noise and parking violations centered on 305 N. Marvine Ave. revealed that the home's owner, Ron Newman, was renting to CCC students without first obtaining the proper city permits.
Ann Padlick, who lives next door, said it was "quite obvious there were young kids living there," in Newman's house because of the abundance of vehicles parked on the front lawn and increased youth traffic.
"I went down to the college and asked them for their off-campus housing list and saw that he was advertising his 1,374-square-foot house for four to eight students," Padlick said. "That's what started the whole thing. That's when I called codes."
Newman said there were never more than four people living in the home, including himself, and said he, like many of the other people in the neighborhood renting to college students, was unaware that he was required to obtain either a certificate of occupancy or home occupation permit from the city codes department.
He admitted that early on, some of his boarders would smoke on his front porch at night, which may have caused some noise when his immediate neighbors were sleeping, but Newman said once he realized that it may have been disruptive, he asked the youths to smoke in the backyard.
“There’s a flaw in the system," he said, by which things like this only come up when somebody gets mad. “The city doesn’t have enough manpower to make sure everybody’s got their ‘i’s dotted and their ‘t’s crossed, so they rely on the whistleblowers and whoever becomes the complainer has the power.”
Since the trouble started in the spring, Newman said, he’s pursued the proper permits from the Auburn Code Enforcement office.
Because of density requirements, he said he only rents to two students now. Another city code requires that there be enough parking at a rental property to accommodate cars for all the occupants without being stacked behind each other, so the renters can arrive and leave without having to shuffle their cars into a single-file residential driveway.
“I live in a residential neighborhood and am trying to rent rooms to students – not all of whom have cars,” Newman said. “Now they’re trying to make me comply with commercial requirements when I’m in a residential zone. I’ve tried to work with them, but it seems like they’re coming at me from every angle.”
In July, Newman appeared in Auburn City Court because of claims of code violations that the city code enforcement office said had not been rectified.
He was ordered to correct the problems, stop taking renters or face a fine.
Senior Code Enforcement Officer Brian Hicks said any person taking in boarders is required to first obtain a home occupation permit.
“When the property owner applies for the permit, we set up a time for an inspection to make sure they have functioning smoke detectors, a safe means of ingress and egress and they meet the zoning requirements for off street parking,” Hicks said. “What we normally do is every fall, we get information from the college sent to us for the homeowners who want to be on their list for off-campus housing. Then we verify whether the city has a home occupation permit on file and make sure they’re up to date on their inspections.”
Hicks declined to talk about specific cases, but said his office has focused more this year on the home occupancy permits because of complaints from the neighborhood surrounding the school.
CCC President Dan Larson said the college maintains a list of possible landlords for off-campus housing on its website.
The recent complaints have driven the college to put those hoping to be listed under closer scrutiny.
“In response to those issues, it because clear that we needed to have a stronger approach to the way we listed these properties on our website,” Larson said. “In June, we notified all the property owners that then needed to proceed with the applications to get the proper permits from the city. If the permits are not approved, that listing come off the college’s website.”
Out of the two-dozen properties listed on the website, Larson said many of them were still working through to process of getting home occupation permits.
Newman’s property, which was listed earlier this year, is no longer on the list.
Larson said if a homeowner is unable to obtain the permit from the city, then students should “move on,” because of safety and quality of life issues.
“We recognize the concerns by the neighbors, and we want them to be comfortable,” he said. “We want to be good neighbors in the area, and we also want students to be housed in locations suitable to them.”