Mansfield Town Council Discusses Student Off-Campus Housing

The Town Council met yesterday evening to approve or discontinue items in the Plan of Conservation and Development as part of the Mansfield Tomorrow Plan.

Linda Painter, director of Planning and Development, asked for approval from the town council on various parts of the plan. One topic that frequently came up was affordable housing.

The extensive plan features chapters on agriculture, housing, sustainability, university expansion, open spaces and community life.

The initial drafts of the plan were made in the fall of 2013, and have been finalized in the last few months.

One item that was voted out was a proposal was for affordable temporary housing for farm workers. The council determined that unnecessary at the current time. Another proposed item was for an employer assisted housing program for income eligible town and board of education employees.

Virginia Raymond, a town council member, strongly opposed the employer housing program.

“For us to set up a special class of people within our community and give them front of the line privileges with regard to appropriate housing is inappropriate and probably discriminatory,” Raymond said.

The town council also discussed the University of Connecticut’s on and off campus housing. They proposed that UConn require students to live on campus through sophomore year and that it reconsider allowing only three unrelated people to live together in managed apartment complexes.

“This is a way to take pressure off of the single family neighborhoods. It is also an incentive for students to move into an apartment complex instead of renting a house, because of affordability impacts of the three person limitation,” Painter said.

Painter mentioned the town needs to reach the 10 percent quota of affordable housing.

The POCD also included asking UConn to formally label and announce their areas of conservation and preservation. A continuous theme throughout the plan is the “preservation of rural character.” Many residents wanted to limit the commercial development and preserve the open spaces that characterize Mansfield. Asking UConn to preserve land helps achieve this.

Similarly, agriculture and sustainability were discussed; including inviting farmers to town council meetings and opening a spot on the agricultural committee for a UConn natural resources and the environment professor.

Although some progress was made in removing or changing items in the plan, more time will pass until the plan is set in motion.

“All these items are worth exploring, that’s all were saying here,” Mayor Elizabeth Paterson said.

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