Auburn is facing the challenge of how to balance growth and retaining the village charm and cultural heritage that makes Auburn special.
The City Council was wise to “take a breather” by passing a building moratorium in December that ends May 3.
Our city should actively solicit fresh ideas to balance growth with heritage. If we were currently successfully doing that, thousands of citizens would not feel disenfranchised when development projects that are past the point of major changes are announced.
Auburn has used task forces to develop ideas in the past, but the critical difference is that they were city-led, not citizen-led nor independent.
I have asked the City Council to appoint a citizen-led task force to study student housing. The group needs an objective and fair-minded chairperson and a cross-section of 11 to 12 contributors.
Contributors should be Auburn University leadership, students, residents, and developers.
Two objectives that could be applicable to the task force: 1) address housing trends with regard to current and future markets, and 2) review the city infrastructure needed to support future growth. Having a long-range vision regarding housing and development is critical. The current Auburn Downtown Master Plan is not a vision, as evidenced by the recent series of ill-conceived developments.
The task force can also address our mayor’s concern about what to do with former student housing projects left vacant when students move to newer developments.
As we know, these low-occupancy projects do not help the tax base or economic growth, and often they become high crime areas.
Independent individuals with no hidden agenda can provide recommendations that are illuminating and fresh.
Diverse participants can generate new ideas not considered to date that can move economic growth and development forward, as well as increasing the tax base while preserving Auburn’s charm and heart and soul. Recommendations are not binding.
The city has nothing to lose except the same old way of doing things.
There are only two and a half months left in the moratorium.
Please appoint a citizen-led task force now.