Making Better Neighbors: Students and Residents Discover a Balance

By KBJR News 1

November 4, 2011 Updated Nov 4, 2011 at 7:36 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - With three universities within the city limits, these students bring millions of dollars of economic impact to the city, but with them come other, not so beneficial issues to the area.

Those negative impacts have seen a turn around however as city officials, school leaders, and students themselves have worked to find a balance when it comes to living in the community.

As fall comes in the northland residents plan on the days being shorter.

But nights seem to get longer for some residents as college students make their way back into residential housing throughout the city.

"The trends are there that we know what weekends are going to be busier for college party, simply because of a events that are going on with the universities," said Duluth Police Officer Steve Ring.

Parties and students making their presence known at all hours of the night is something that has been a focus for city officials for years, and that attention has paid off.

"That's what we have been focused on in the last couple of years. Saying, 'you know we love college students and it is an important part of our local economy, but we still have to address the problems as well'. I think it has gotten substantially better in the last two years in particular," said Duluth Mayor Don Ness.

With a proactive attack on the front of both city officials and student led initiatives, numbers show that substantial progress has been made.

Police statistics show that back during the 2007 through 2008 school year, more that 400 party calls were made.

Last year that number was considerably lower, not even making it to 250.

One of the ways police have helped mitigate problems is putting into action the Social Host Ordinance.

"We got some social host tickets here...disturbing the neighborhood like way earlier in the year...but yeah it has cost us a lot," said Trevor Knose, a junior at UMD.

Those Social Hosts tickets cost Knose and each of his room mates around 500 dollars for each.

Duluth Police say a social host ticket is issued to property renters or home owners when a party hosts an underage drinking party.

Present or not, those living in the house are issued the tickets.

Police say in 2010, only one or two houses were repeat offenders.

"It's their spot, they are living here too. You don't want people waking you up if you have a test the next day...they don't want to be woken up if they have work the next day. The same reasons they can get mad at you, you could get mad at someone else. You just have to make sure you respect people," said UMD junior Alexandra Harding.

But it's not just the law taking a proactive approach to making sure students mesh well in the community.

"We explain that you are not moving into the dorms with a bunch of other college kids, you are moving into a community with established residents and you're becoming a part of that community and it's your job as a student to try and blend in and mesh with the established culture already in the neighborhoods," Alex Aschenbrenner, director of the Better Neighbors Program at UMD.

The Better Neighbors Program offered at UMD offers assistance to students moving off campus, and helps promote good stewardship between students and local residents, while at the same time knowing every year brings something new.

"I think with a bunch of people moving in every year, everything changes and there is always going to be issues...what we can do to alleviate that we do, and we strive to do better every year," said Aschenbrenner.

"What it comes down to is a basic respect between people. If students respect the residents and residents respect the students a lot of those issues take care of themselves because there's going to be that respect and that communication between neighbors," said Mayor Ness.

Mayor Ness says talks of a student orientated area along Woodland is being discussed with developers.

He says that is another option for students who want to be in a completely college area, while still allowing students who wish to live in residential neighborhoods to still have that option.