FIRST ON WITN: Greenville City Council Passes New 4-Unrelated Rule

The Greenville City Council voted Thursday night 4-2 in favor of the amendment which says the 3-unrelated rule is now the 4-unrelated rule. That means the law passed decades ago to allow only 3 unrelated people to live together in a home has now been changed to a maximum of 4 roommates living together. Right now the rule applies to neighborhoods around East Carolina University north of 5th Street to the Tar River.

The council also passed 4-2 a zoning map where this rule applies late Thursday evening. This rule only applies to the university neighborhood area, north of 5th Street, east of Cotanche, south of the Tar River and west of Elm Street.

ECU says it opposes changes to allow more than three non-relatives to live in homes in certain parts of Greenville where mostly students live.

In a statement this afternoon, the university says not until there is a "strong, consistent, and sustained enforcement effort" ECU can't support a change from three people to four allowed to live in one home in the University Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative area.

Council is scheduled to give final approval to the change, but a petition surfaced this week which would have forced at least five council members to vote yes. Now that petition is being questioned as one of those residents who originally signed it has changed their mind. This means only a simple majority is required Thursday night.

ECU says it believes current rules are sufficient. In today's statement, the university says enforcement of current rules and ordinances "appears to be inadequate, regardless of where you live in the city." ECU says there are not enough enforcement officers in the neighborhoods affected. "Budgeting for adequate code enforcement never seems to have the same level of urgency as money for more police or firefighters -- yet the issues are strongly inter-related," the university said.

The university says it wants to be part of the solution. It proposes to pay half of the salary of an additional enforcement officer for the neighborhood, while unpaid code enforcement violations should be attached to property tax bills, instead of being placed as property liens.

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A decision to allow more than 3 non-relatives to live in one house in certain parts of Greenville will now require a solid majority to pass.
A petition filed with the City of Greenville Thursday means the city council of 7 will need at least 5 members to agree to make a change to the rule.

Areas zoned under the 3-unrelated rule in Greenville states if more than 3 unrelated people are living in one home they are in violation. Those housing areas are close to East Carolina University, where students typically rent out homes. There are two parts to this proposal: an amendment to change the rule to read "no more than 4 unrelated residents in one home," and rezoning the areas where this rule applies. Thursday the city council will make a decision based on recommendations by the Planning and Zoning Board.

"I think what we're seeing here is that, fortunately we have a legal process that will allow people to protest when a change is going to be made to their land and the land nearby and they don't agree with it, so you file this legal document that says no, we don't like this and we're going to oppose it," said Greenville City Councilwoman Marion Blackburn

Several petitions have been sent in to the city clerk concerning the zoning rule.

The Greenville Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing Tuesday night to review a request from city council to allow certain homes north of 5th street to allow four unrelated people to live together.

People at the hearing had a variety of opinions on the issue.

Andrew Morehead says, "This initiative is going to have the opposite effect of what its proponents are saying. It's simply going to result in more crime, more overcrowding and a decrease in the values of the houses in the neighborhood."

James Robbins supports the change from three people to four. He says, "I have properties that are well kept. They're pristine and well kept, our tenants are selected. They're all ECU students, that's our target audience."

The commission voted 6 to 2 against the amendments allowing the housing of 4-unrelated individuals.

Their recommendation will go before the city council for a final decision at their meeting in October.

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