Third-year housing set to move forward

Plans get the OK from Rockbridge Board of Supervisors and Lexington City Council after small adjustments

Maria Rachal

The Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors has approved Washington and Lee’s third-year housing plan, after a 30-day postponement of the vote due to concerns over traffic and parking issues.

At their meeting on Nov. 24, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-0 in favor of W&L’s special exception application to move forward with the new housing plans. Two of the five supervisors were absent from this meeting.

The Board of Supervisors’ approval follows a 4-0 Lexington City Council approval of W&L’s third-year housing plans on Nov. 20.

W&L had to seek both city and county approval before moving forward because the proposed land for housing is under both Lexington and Rockbridge jurisdiction.

At their Oct. 27 meeting, supervisors chose to delay the vote regarding the housing proposal for 30 days. They cited an insufficient amount of available parking on W&L’s campus as their primary concern with the housing plans. Mandatory third-year housing would result in roughly 280 additional students living on campus each semester, which would create a significantly increased demand for on-campus parking.

According to the Rockbridge Report, the university pledged to add 749 new parking spaces to campus in response to worries raised by the Board of Supervisors. The university originally planned to add 673.

The majority of these new parking spots will be located in a new lot behind the Liberty Hall ruins, while others will be added near the West Denny Circle and the Castle House facility.

With W&L’s newly planned solutions for parking, as well as further university analysis of how the new housing complex will affect Lexington traffic patterns, the Rockbridge officials gave the university full permission to continue housing planning efforts.

Despite the approval, some locals still have concerns about what third-year W&L students living on campus will mean for the city of Lexington, which currently houses much of the third-year and fourth-year student population. Some officials have raised concerns over damage to the housing market, as well as the possibility for less student engagement in the town of Lexington itself and its businesses.

In light of these concerns, Mayor of Lexington Mimi Elrod feels confident that the shift to third-year housing is a good decision by W&L.

“I support what the university is doing; I can understand it,” Elrod said. “They want to have students on campus. That’s probably the way it should be.”

With third-year housing schedule to be ready for the 2016-2017 school year, Elrod believes that the city of Lexington and W&L will continue to respect each other’s interests.

“I feel like we have a very good relationship with the school and that we try to work together to make things good for the students, their parents, and for the city.”

First-year student Bailey Brilley, who serves on the Executive Committee’s Upper Division Housing Committee, is excited that W&L can continue to progress towards third-year housing.

Brilley acknowledged the fact that some students are uneasy regarding the shift from living off-campus to on-campus, but she is hopeful that students will see their interests and values reflected in the housing plans.

“We’re really just trying to figure out how to present the housing plans to people in a way that clears up misconceptions people may have, specifically about how it may affect their autonomy,” Brilley said. “The school really wants to preserve what people value so much about off-campus living in the new development.”