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OUR VIEW: Proactive zoning would help Kent

It's time for the city to take closer look at housing needs

Published: September 21, 2016 4:00 AM

Kent and its surrounding area has seen the construction of numerous student-oriented housing complexes in recent years, many near the Kent State campus, others near the downtown area. The projects have added a substantial number of apartments whose occupancy is tied directly to enrollment at the university.

The Lofts, a complex to be located off Horning Road near the Holly Park development, will be the latest addition, assuming the project receives city approval. The development, which isn't being marketed specifically to students but is likely to draw on them as a tenant base, will consist of two four-story buildings with a total of 186 beds.

Neighbors of the proposed complex have expressed concern about the project, raising questions about its density, additional traffic and intrusiveness on single-family housing. Whether those issues will play a factor in the final decision on the project remain to be seen.

It might be time -- actually, it seems past due -- for Kent to reassess its housing needs. While Kent State is enjoying a healthy enrollment, with more students on the campus for the 10th year in a row, what will happen if that trend is reversed? Who will fill the thousands of student units? Is it wise to continue to encourage student housing developments, especially at a cost of diminishing the quality of life of neighboring single-family neighborhoods, or would encouraging more housing for seniors be a better idea?

The Lofts, like other recent student developments, will be a multi-story complex. While "high rise" housing arguably may be in keeping with the new urban feel of the downtown area, does Kent really need four-story housing abutting single-family neighborhoods? Is high-density housing the answer or would lower-density units be more in keeping with the city's small-town flavor? That's another question that ought to be considered before continuing to alter the city's landscape.

A proactive approach to zoning, taking into consideration existing land use and attempting to project future needs, could benefit Kent greatly. Asking questions now, rather than confronting them after the fact when a developer presents a project, could enable the city to have more control over development.

Kent continues to pay the price for poorly planned commercial and residential projects that were constructed 40 or 50 years ago. Zoning decisions made even earlier effectively destroyed single-family neighborhoods and blighted areas surrounding the Kent State campus. We are concerned that history may eventually repeat itself. It may be time for a moratorium on high-density residential development.


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