City ordinance could result in the eviction of some Auburn students

AUBURN, Ala. -- Like many college towns, the City of Auburn has unrelated occupancy regulations on the books, which have been in place since 1982. Their purpose and intent is to provide a framework that preserves the character of the older and more residential neighborhoods in the city.

The city has three areas in which no more than two unrelated people can live in the same house: limited development district (LDD), neighborhood conservation district (NC) and the development district (DD). All other zoning districts, no more than five unrelated people can live in the same house.

Planning Director, Forrest Cotten said the city has received 17 complaints of houses in the area that may be in violation, which is the most in 10 years. Cotten said of those 17, six have been found in violation, with a few others still under investigation.

Once a complaint is made to the planning department, they will begin their investigation of the house in question doing things such as: monitoring the number of cars at the house each day, the amount of traffic in and out of the house and looking for other possible violations. If after 10 days of investigating, the city is comfortable with the evidence gathered, an affidavit will be submitted to Auburn Municipal Court in support of a search warrant of the house.

Senior, Hayley Bylsma had her home searched a few weeks ago. Her family purchased land on Dumas Drive to build a house, and in January 2016, her and her roommates moved in. Her father, Wayne, a former Auburn football player, owns the home. Once his daughter and her roommates graduated, he and his wife were going to retire there and use it as a gameday condo. He said he was not made aware of the ordinance during the building process.

"I never thought that living in a house be against the law," Bylsma said. "Growing up, coming to Auburn for football games, I always drove by and saw the houses with signs that said so and so loves the tigers. I always wanted to live in a house with my friends. I never thought it would be illegal."

"How was I to know that students could not live there?" Wayne Bylsma said. "The student transit bus comes by every 15 minutes, and it has a stop right across from house and students live up and down the street." Bylsma added, "We don't think it's right and proper, and I think Auburn's got more important issues to worry about than people with different last names."

Bill Caskey who has lived along East Samford Avenue for the past four years is in favor of the zoning ordinance. He said upholds the character of the family-friendly neighborhood.

"The city has followed up on the complaints, found homeowners to be in violation of it and have enforced the law," Caskey said. "It's unfortunate that people are going to have to move to another location, but they are in violation of the law. I support the enforcement, and I think the city is doing the right thing."

Cotten added that the city tries to be as reasonable as they can. He added that students are not the ones being cited for the violations, it's the property owner. He went on to add that it is the property owner's responsibility to remedy the situation, whether it be assist the students to find some other place to live, which is commonly the case. If a violation is discovered, a court date is given. That court date typically happens a month from when the violation is given, and by the time they get to the court date, the property owner has already remedied the situation in most, and the city is more than willing to dismiss violation.

If the situation is not remedied by the court date, there can be fines on a daily basis until it is resolved. Cotten urges folks to familiarize themselves with the zoning in the city and reach out to realtors with questions.

"Do your due diligence," Cotten said. "Do your homework. Obviously, it's up to the individual to be responsible for what the laws are in the city. We can make that information as widely known as we possibly can, but it's up to the consumer to actually take advantage of it, consume it, digest it and apply it."

Bylsma and others in violation of the ordinance are set to appear in Auburn Municipal Court on Oct. 17.

You can view the zoning map for the the city on it's website.

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