August 20, 2019

Not in our backyard

College towns. The image brings to mind endless dorm buildings, 3 a.m. bars and bad parking. Webster Groves, however, the home and birthplace of Webster University, neither looks nor feels like the typical college town.
Webster has gone out of its way to accommodate the antiquated, small-town feel that Webster Groves prides itself on. Buildings like the H. Sam Priest House, Webster Hall and Pearson House are all facilities housing classrooms and equipment that, aesthetically, invoke feelings of old-time, middle-American goodness. Observers would be hard pressed to guess which buildings scattered throughout Old-Webster are university buildings.
And yet, he Webster Groves City Council is, again, trying to inhibit the expansion of the university under the guise of protecting the health, safety and general welfare of its citizens.
Bottom line: Webster Groves doesn’t want the university fouling up their pretty landscape, tree-lined streets and warm family atmosphere. At a meeting held on Jan. 18, the City Council approved an amendment that will limit the expansion of the university within the city of Webster Groves.
The amendment, which addressed zoning regulations, places strict limitations on how close any non-residential buildings may be to the street. The zoning amendment also places stricter limitations on any party seeking a non-residential building in a residential area, making it harder for the university to acquire and use homes and buildings in the immediate area surrounding the school.
The Journal could not possibly disapprove anymore. While the editorial board here can certainly understand the desire for residents to retain the same “look and feel” of their beautiful town, it should not come at the expense of higher education, or the university.
Webster University has gained international respect for its academic accomplishments. Hailed for its accomplishments in international studies, it’s both shocking and disturbing to The Journal to see how little regard the community has for its university offspring.
Webster Groves City Council should recognize the positive aspects of having such a fine learning institution in their backyard. Our students shop at local businesses, work in local stores and bringing capital and national attention into an otherwise unknown town in suburban St. Louis.
The observable attempts by the city council over the years to limit the expansion and success of the university makes the citizens of the community appear ungrateful and even hostile.
Students at Webster wish no ill will toward their adopted community here in the ’Groves, and to be treated as an unwelcome irritant by the powers that be will only foster resentment between to two halves of the city: the citizens and the students.
Webster University is not without lawyers, dear citizens of Webster Groves. Can’t we all just get along?

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