Chapman expansion dominates city council meeting

Residents recite the Pledge of Allegiance before addressing the Orange City Council about Chapman's expansion at the Feb. 9 council meeting. Photo by Rebeccah Glaser

Residents recite the Pledge of Allegiance before addressing the Orange City Council about Chapman’s expansion at the Feb. 9 council meeting. Photo by Rebeccah Glaser

Emotions were high in the Orange City Council Chambers on Tuesday night as Orange community members engaged in a discussion with council members regarding issues including Chapman’s expansion, lack of on-campus student housing and out-of-date party ordinances.

“Why would we ever want to raise a family here in the City of Orange?” said Adam Duberstein, who resides in Orange with his wife. “Old Towne is not a community to raise children. It is a community littered with beer bottles and loud music. You can play beer pong on your front lawn. You can urinate in the front yard.”

Dozens of Orange residents were seated in the chambers by 6 p.m., some holding neon orange signs opposing Chapman’s planned expansion. Others donned T-shirts of the same color with “Chapman Grow? Neighbors Say No!” emblazoned on the back.

However, council members were quick to commend Chapman for its willingness to confront community issues.

“The best approach is a collaborative effort between the city and Chapman University,” said city manager Rick Otto. “Clearly, Chapman wants to be a part of the solution. We’re not alone in this issue.”

The plan presented to the council focused largely on amending party ordinances and addressing the issue of students living in residential Orange neighborhoods. Current Orange party ordinances are only punitive toward the host of the party, making it hard for the Orange Police Department to dole out punishment.

“It’s difficult to determine the host of the party,” said City Attorney Wayne Winthers. “One addition we could make (to the party ordinance) is to make it a violation for anyone to attend a party, not just the host.”

However, raucous parties are not the only issue troubling Orange residents. Many present also voiced their concerns about students residing in single-family, residential neighborhoods.

Steve Lichten of Orange addresses the Orange City Council about Chapman's expansion at the Feb. 9 council meeting. Photo by Rebeccah Glaser

Steve Lichten of Orange addresses the Orange City Council about Chapman’s expansion at the Feb. 9 council meeting. Photo by Rebeccah Glaser

Although some Orange residents adamantly oppose Chapman’s proposed campus expansion, which includes new student dormitories, they are equally upset with students taking residence in traditionally single-family districts. Currently, 32 percent of students live on campus and as the university works to expand to more than 11,000 students by 2026, the issue of housing will persist.

“I live about a block away from Chapman,” Brian Lochrie, an Old Towne resident, told The Panther. “We’ve had drunk students that have passed out in our yard, urinated in our yard.”

Despite the fact that the criticism fell heavily on students, there was no representation from Chapman’s student government at the meeting.

“By the time we heard about it, it was already too late for us,” said Student Government President Josh Nudelman. “It’s still the very beginning of the semester, so we’re still getting our bearings in order. It was just a mix-up.”

Nudelman said he worried that Chapman students were portrayed in a negative light at the meeting.

“I think it’s very important for students to be involved in this conversation,” Nudelman said. “But right now, it’s very heated.”

Despite the lack of student presence, there was no shortage of administrative representation. Kris Olsen, vice president of campus planning and operations at Chapman, Chief Randy Burba of Public Safety, and Harold Hewitt, executive vice president and chief operating officer, were all in attendance, spurring community members to interweave commendations of Chapman’s efforts in with their criticisms.

The council is considering several of the changes proposed, which include preventing the construction of additional bedrooms in single-family residences referred to as “mini-dorms,” prohibiting excessive street parking and making party ordinances more punitive for both hosts and landlords.

However, putting these plans into action would require an extensive budget, leading many attendees to insist that Chapman foot the bill.

“Chapman has created the issues and should bear the financial burden,” said Joanne Coontz, former mayor and resident of Orange since 1961.

A movement to amend party ordinances by incurring penalties with a longer duration and taking punitive measures against both residents and landlords passed unanimously.

“It’s really unfortunate that we find ourselves in our position,” said Councilwoman Kimberlee Nichols. “A phenomenal community is just crumbling around us with no control.”

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