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Do You Want a Frat House Next Door to You?

August 9, 2012 by Blue Ridge Leader filed under Dear Editor, Opinion, Uncategorized 7 Comments
town of purcellville sign

On August 16 at the new Town Hall (7:00 p.m.) the Purcellville Planning Commission and Town Council will hold a joint meeting on a proposal to amend residential zoning to accommodate “Student Homes”. What is driving this proposed amendment? Patrick Henry College wants to rent available homes and put up to eight students and a Residential Assistant (and other employees) per home to resolve their obvious failure to properly plan for the needs of their expanding student population. Patrick Henry also appears to be in a bit of a time crunch; trying to gain approval using combined Planning Commission/Town Council meetings where minimal quorums for both can be gathered. Taking from a popular conservative broadcaster’s mantra, “Here is what you need to know”:

  • The zoning amendment effects nearly every neighborhood in Purcellville.
  • No analysis has been conducted to support their claim that the zoning amendment is “in the interest of public necessity, general welfare and good zoning practice”. (Give me a Break!)
  • This is not good legislation as currently proposed. Its poorly written ordinance contains multiple pitfalls that could lower your home values and be further exploited if permanently enacted.
  • The criteria under which the proposed amendment would be executed and/or constrained is woefully inadequate, and does not consider the infrastructure confines of many Purcellville neighborhoods.
  • Residential areas with covenant restrictions will not be immune as those houses backing up to areas with no such restrictions may be more susceptible to having to put up with the fallout from this proposal.

Imagine the Used Car lot in the driveway next to you, the noise and the sudden increase in traffic. What kinds of economic and urban planning analysis has been conducted to warrant such as sweeping waiver of standing zoning ordinances (particulary to areas designated soley for single family dwellings). The answer is none.

Numerous reasonable alternatives to this amendment could provide Patrick Henry College an interim solution until such time as they can build adequate facilities on their recently expanded campus. For instance, the College could work with the Purcellville populace to establish cooperative student housing provisions for individual students (similar to hosting foreign students or when the town provides for the Little League Tournament’s needs). This could be of tremendous benefit to many upstanding local families (voters) in need of extra income during these hard economic times without stressing local neighborhoods. We have seen no such pursuit of an effort like this from Patrick Henry to overcome their self-imposed problems. Their approach instead, is to exert leverage on the Town Council and permanently burden the Purcellville populace. Make no mistake, this “Institution of Higher Learning” that specializes in the protection of individual freedom, is counting on your apathy towards your community to get what they want.

What do you think? Is this being done in the spirit of community partnership or does the need to house a few students, outweigh the needs of Purcellville residents? This amendment is simply not ready for prime time, nor is it good for our community. It solves Patrick Henry’s problem at our enduring expense.

Last Sunday, I spoke with several supportive local business owners and residents who all had very negative things to say about the Town Council’s lack of regard for their interests. Almost all expressed to me that my individual opinion wouldn’t matter. My response to this is simply that many voices are more likely heard than just one. If voters do not show up, we cannot hang this mistake on our Town Council’s shoulders. Please come to the Town Hall meeting on Thursday August 16 at 7:00 p.m. (be aware of sudden “changes” to the date/time of the meeting) to express your opposition to this amendment. We can find a better solution for all involved, if we get involved.

Chris Funkhauser


  1. Cassandra says:

    Having lived in several well-known “college towns” around the country I can tell you from personal experience that no good would come from passage of Patrick Henry’s proposal. I’ve seen it in Cambridge MA and in Berkeley and Palo Alto CA. Cramming groups of students into what are supposed to be regular family homes makes for neighborhood problems and increased public safety pressures. Such homes are often subject to deferred maintenance, suffer from parking, noise and trash collection issues, and would likely reduce neighborhood real estate values. Once they are permitted, what limit is there on how many such homes can be accommodated, and where? Face it: Students are in essence transients, whose priorities are unlikely to include neighborhood improvement.

    Encouraging housing of one or two students at a time with willing local families is a much more neighborhood-resident (and student) -friendly policy. The monkey is properly on Patrick Henry’s back to house their students on campus, and Purcellville shouldn’t have to bear that cost by rushing into altering its SFR zoning. If the zoning doesn’t now include boarding houses, Purcellville ought to think twice or maybe three times about this.

  2. Bob L. says:

    What PHC wants, PHC gets, right GOBGN? Think we’ll ever see this happen in Bob or Janet’s neighborhood?

  3. Purcellville Resident says:

    I cannot believe this is even making it to be on an agenda.
    This should have been rejected immediately by the Town.

    The Town Council is ELECTED to represent and do what is BEST for the residents of the town.
    NO ONE in their right mind could think this is good for the town or residents.
    However since the PHC are well connected and could help some members (meaning Mayor) achieve greater political power of course the Town will have to give it serious consideration.

    I can only say that if this passes, every current member of the Town Council and the Mayor should step down because they have completely forgot who they are suppose to be representing and working for.

    Wake UP PURCELLVILLE these folks are taking you for a HECK of a ride.

  4. Ron K says:

    8 students and a resident assistant are not a Frat, You all are denying needy students housing, you should be ashamed of yourselves.. With the right permissions in place, those empty houses could be making people some money, and some people will even keep their houses this way. Don’t be NIMBY’s, remember the poor student living on ramen noodles..

  5. The Imitator says:

    The idea that eight PHC students and a RA constitute a frat house is laughable. We’re talking about Patrick Henry College, not University of Florida at Gainesville. Relax.

  6. PHC Senior says:

    I understand the potential for houses full of college students to be a detriment to the community. By all means, if voting community members are opposed to this proposal, their voices should be heard and considered.

    Here are just a few things to consider:

    - Quite a few students have arrangements to live with local families.

    - It would be absurd for the college to build a dorm (capacity 100-150 students) to meet the needs of, say, 40-odd students.

    - It would be difficult to arrange with 40+ different families for the housing of said students, especially considering that quite a few students already are living in such arrangements.

    - I’ve never seen alcohol or any other banned substances on campus, and there is no reason to assume that alcohol would be present in RA-supervised houses.

  7. PHC alumni says:

    Having attended PHC for 4+ years I can safely say that the community can rest at ease. It is incredibly unfair to compare the college to Berkley or any other government funded liberal institution.

    Unlike those Universities, students at PHC do not attend to party and sleep around. Alcohol and Tobacco are banned, not only on campus but for the entire duration of attendance at PHC. When I attended all students were required to sign a code saying they would not use either, a violation of this code resulted in disciplinary action by the school (I don’t know if students physically have to sign the code anymore, but it is still in affect).

    PHC students are extremely mature (in some cases more so than 40 or 50 year old people I know). Unlike our peers we are very goal oriented and responsible.

    We have always been grateful for the hospitality of Purcellville and will continue to be in the future.
    Joshua Gibbs
    2010 PHC Grad

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