Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 27, 2013

College Avenue — Rezoning in city’s best interest

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— The vote by the Bluefield Board of Directors to restrict future multi-family dwellings along College Avenue is an interesting decision. By its very nature, the move is controversial. However, it also appears to be an unfortunate necessity.

The board approved a second reading of the ordinance Tuesday by a vote of 4-0 with board member Dr. Tom Blevins absent. The request for the ordinance was brought on by citizen complaints, and concerns from board members about the proliferation of rental property along College Avenue and the degradation of property values in the area.

The ordinance basically changes the existing zoning along College Avenue to allow only single-family dwellings in the future. It will not impact current rental properties or landlords on College Avenue, who are grandfathered in under the new rules. So no existing rental properties will be forced to close or move outside of the city limits.

The ordinance in question has prompted some opposition — and that’s to be expected. Some have argued that the concept of personal property and property ownership enables citizens to use their property for economic advantage. However, others have complained that out-of-state landlords have been buying property in the area, converting the property into rental units, and then not maintaining the rental units. And when housing or rental units are not property maintained, it has a negative impact on the community as a whole.

Bluefield needs to retain rental properties. There is little question about that. Many young working adults — who are not homeowners — depend upon rental property. And so do many college students from Bluefield State College and Bluefield College. However, when landlords are not good stewards of their own properties, it creates problems for a neighborhood as a whole.

College Avenue is an important city thoroughfare in Bluefield. It’s heavily traveled, both by vehicles and walkers and joggers during the warmer months. It’s also home to the Greater Bluefield Community Center, and more importantly, dozens of homeowners who expect and demand a clean, peaceful and safe neighborhood. Unfortunately, we’ve seen a lot of houses for sale on the avenue in recent months while at the same time the number of rental units in the area seem to be increasing. That’s not a good sign for a community.

While this decision won’t be popular with everyone, we believe it was the right move by the Bluefield Board of Directors. Too many rental units can become a problem. And that’s what we are seeing at the moment in the vicinity of College Avenue. It’s important that we retain the character of this neighborhood so that citizens living in the area won’t have to worry about the degradation of their property values.

In the meantime, all landlords should take steps now to ensure that their properties are well maintained and meet city code. They should also strive to ensure that their tenants will be good neighbors for the city of Bluefield. And the same goes for all homeowners on College Avenue. They, too, should ensure that their property is well maintained and meets city standards.