More student housing a possibility

Rachel Abbey

Students may have more housing choices on South Willow Street next semester if Christopher Smeiles of Cutler Real Estate has his way.

Smeiles appealed to change four houses from family and duplex residences to student rooming and boarding homes at last night’s Kent Planning Commission meeting. The commission approved his requests and recommended the Board of Zoning Appeals do the same when he appeals to them in two weeks.

In Kent, houses cannot legally be rented to more than two unrelated people, Smeiles said. In order to rent to groups of students, houses must be zoned as rooming and boarding houses.

“The Willow Street area is more and more being occupied by students rather than families,” he said.

Smeiles wants to convert the buildings into three- and six-person rooming and boarding homes. This conversion does not require physical changes to the buildings, but rather for the board to allow the residences to be used as such. Smeiles said rooming and boarding houses are traditionally required to have larger yards and driveways, but these houses, built in the early 1900s, are confined to their current space and size.

Planning commissioners William Anderson and John Gargan Jr. both said the houses seem well-maintained.

“I think it’s good,” Anderson said. “Clean the place up.”

Smeiles expanded parking on two of the properties before approaching the commission – a violation of the process, plans administrator Gary Locke said. The commission approved the lots last night, and Smeiles agreed to finish any other changes in a legal and timely fashion. The commission put a six-month deadline on the project.

Contact public affairs reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected].