Kent cracking down on boarding houses

Jenna Staul

City to discuss new rental license system

The house at 207 Linden St. has not been approved to use as a boarding house. Caitlin Sirse | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

After the recent closings of two Kent boarding houses, officials say the city plans to further crack down on illegal multiple-person dwellings.

Community development director Gary Locke said fire and safety hazards, noise complaints, as well as parking, trash and sanitary issues posed by illegal boarding homes – many of which may be occupied by students – have led the city to take a more proactive approach to enforcing zoning code.

The city will discuss adopting a new rental licensing system and changing the definition of what constitutes a family under zoning codes at the April 7 Planning Committee meeting.

While specifics for the rental licensing program have not yet been developed, Locke said, the program will help the city better keep track of how properties are being used.

“I think the problems have a lot to do with the fact that many of the residents are students, but that’s not entirely the problem,” Locke said of problems his department has seen with boarding houses in the city. “A lot of the issues are a matter of who’s in control of the property.”

Eric Fink, Kent assistant law director, said any talks underway to change the definition of a family are still in the early discussion phases. City zoning code now defines a family as people who have a more permanent living arrangement based on blood, adoption or marriage.

“Who knows when that definition was actually written?” Fink said. “For instance, we’re considering if they are functioning as a family, but not blood-related. Right now, cousins are not OK, but brothers are, so we’re looking at the degree of relation. We’re also looking at the definition to maybe reflect different lifestyles.”

Fink said in other Ohio college towns, such as Bowling Green and Athens, proposals have been made to include Greek organizations in the definition of a family.

“But nobody here has proposed that,” Locke said. “It’s not something I would anticipate.”

Earlier this month, owners of an illegal boarding house at 207 Linden St. lost a bid to continue operating the home through variances in the city’s zoning code. A home at 133 N. Willow St. was closed in January after complaints that the home was being used illegally as a boarding house. Both addresses are located in areas zoned for single-family residential units.

Boarding houses are currently permitted in city districts R-4, R-C, C-R, IC-R and C-D. Discussions, however, are also underway to remove the C-R and IC-R districts from that definition because they are more commercialized areas.

Contact public affairs reporter Jenna Staul at [email protected].