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Students and neighbors open a dialogue


A little communication can go a long way.

News 8 Austin (03/07/2003)

By Natasha Allen

The number of students attending Southwest Texas State University nearly equals the population of San Marcos. That growth has caused tension in the relationship between college and community. But now students and their neighbors are starting to talk.

Keli Vogel is a college student who lives in the Hills of Hays neighborhood. She lives their with her fiancé, who she’ll marry later this year, and another person.

So, technically until she gets married, she’s in violation of a zoning rule that prohibits more than two unrelated people from living together.

But Keli said she pays taxes, and doesn’t cause any trouble. So, she wonders what’s the big deal.

“We’re just like a typical family, except we’re not a traditional family,” Vogel said.

But, Keli also admits to having cars over flow into the street.

“I think it’s a public street and I think we should be able to park where ever we want, if they ask us not to park in front of their house, of course, we’re gonna honor that request,” she said.

Some say in order to get along people just need to talk.

“I think there is a, kind of a new energy out there, to try to figure out ways to make this work,” said San Marocs City Manager Dan O’Leary.

“I love the students and don’t misunderstand me, and think that … everything they do is right. And I’m certainly quick to tell them when I think something they’ve done is inappropriate,” said Mayor Bob Habingreither.

The Council of Neighborhood Associations or CONA recently met with the President of the University in hopes of clearing up the issues.“We’re talking about relationships, it’s a different dimension, but I mean, ultimately, what you’re talking about is relationships. What it comes down to really, I think is both sides reaching out,” said Southwest Texas State University President Denise Trauth.

Some say everyone involved has a responsibility to educate each other.

“They’re more willing to help than we give them credit, and we need to show them, you know guide them to what needs to be done in the community,” said Amy Kirwin of CONA.

“Yes, they do things that aren’t good sometimes and do things that aren’t right, but for the most part, they’re good kids. And I want to part of helping them grow up and be more productive citizens. And as the mayor, I think the city should accept that responsibility, too,” Habingreither said.

And even Vogel admits she could do more.

“There have been several community meetings, and I haven’t attended any. And I think maybe if I would have gone and showed them who I am and that I’m not a bad person, that maybe things would be better,” Vogel said.

Either way, when she graduates in May, Vogel says she’ll stay in the Hills of Hays, making the transition from student-resident to resident.

And she says she hopes she and her neighbors can work it out.