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Penn State students, landlords meet to talk zoning prohibition

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 3/20/19

If three unrelated veterans needing housing wanted to live in the same house in Middletown, they’d be breaking the law.

That was among comments heard during a meeting held at Penn State …

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Penn State students, landlords meet to talk zoning prohibition

Posted

If three unrelated veterans needing housing wanted to live in the same house in Middletown, they’d be breaking the law.

That was among comments heard during a meeting held at Penn State Harrisburg on Thursday regarding concerns over Middletown’s zoning prohibition forbidding more than two unrelated people from living in the same single-family dwelling.

The meeting of landlords owning property in Middletown and of students was put together by Riley Cagle, a Penn State Harrisburg junior and senate leader of the campus Student Government Association, who is waging a campaign to convince borough council to amend the prohibition, or get rid of it.

The Press & Journal was allowed to attend the private meeting, on the condition that none of the identities of people attending the meeting be revealed.

Four landlords attended, all of whom also reside in Middletown. A total of 10 students attended, including Cagle and other SGA members.

Cagle said he wanted to hear firsthand from Middletown landlords, and more from students, in order to put together a “public policy brief” that he hopes to present to borough council in the near future.

While opponents of the ban contend the borough is using it to target Penn State Harrisburg students, one landlord pointed out the prohibition applies to everyone.

For example, it makes it illegal for owners of any single-family house in Middletown to allow more than two unrelated people to live in their own house, regardless of whether they are students, this landlord pointed out.

Cagle said he hopes to persuade borough council to get rid of the prohibition by offering solutions to problems that some borough residents say are already resulting from more Penn State Harrisburg students moving into the town.

A lack of parking in residential areas is No. 1 on that list, according to Cagle.

Cagle during a March 5 borough council meeting told council he knew of “multiple” stories of Penn State Harrisburg students who live in the borough being “harassed” by borough codes officials.

The borough denied the accusation, calling Cagle’s comments “broad and unsubstantiated claims” in a statement posted on the borough website March 8.

The statement also notes that the borough has received “no formal complaints” from Penn State students regarding the codes department.

Of the students attending the March 14 meeting, only one spoke of having direct interaction with a borough codes officer.

The student said that on two occasions a borough codes officer had knocked on his door asking questions about how many people live in his building and about whether they are students. The student said he referred the codes official to his landlord.

The other students described a general feeling of seeing themselves as being unwelcome in Middletown.

“I think it is a bad thing to be a student in this town,” said one student who lives in the borough. She said she has been harassed by other people in her neighborhood over parking issues.

Another student said he wishes he could live in Middletown, but is “fearful” of doing so.

“The fact that people are so cold-hearted toward students in Middletown saddens me,” he said.