Ward 2 Alderman Mike Buettner and his colleague, Ward 2 Alderwoman Janet Schmidt, have sharply different opinions on the issue of Lindenwood University-Belleville students who live in neighborhoods near the campus.
But Buettner and Schmidt can agree on one thing: They like the idea of Fire Chief Tom Pour getting advice from the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office about how to handle inspections of homes filled with Lindenwood students in Ward 2.
Buettner, who lives next to students on West A Street, believes Lindenwood is placing too many students in homes purchased by the college, while Schmidt likes the improvements Lindenwood has made to the neighborhood.
Schmidt said she was glad the fire department was taking a “proactive” step of meeting with an inspector from the State Fire Marshal’s Office. Schmidt is a member of the City Council’s Police and Fire Committee, which heard a report from Pour in the past week.
“I think it’s good,” Buettner said. “The inspections should have been done a long time ago. We have to make sure that we’re keeping these kids out of harm’s way.”
A city ordinance passed in 2012 allows Lindenwood to put four to 16 students in buildings. But after the city received complaints in recent weeks from residents who live near the West Main Street campus in response to Lindenwood requesting special-use permits for dozens of homes and apartment buildings, the city has proposed capping that number at 10.
Several residents want to limit the number of students at three per home, which is the usual rule for the number of unrelated adults allowed to live in a Belleville home.
On Oct. 28, the city Zoning Board of Appeals will meet to hear Lindenwood’s request for special-use permits to allow students to live in more than 50 homes and apartment buildings. Lindenwood’s request originally was scheduled for Sept. 24.
The city also has proposed annual inspections of the Lindenwood homes by the building and fire departments.
We’re just trying to determine how exactly we inspect them. We want the students to be as safe as possible.
Fire Chief Tom Pour
That’s where Pour comes in. He recently visited a Lindenwood-owned home at the corner of 20th and West A streets and found that it appeared to be in compliance with fire codes.
Pour said the fire department sent a request to the State Fire Marshal’s Office to have an inspector meet with Pour, and the agency agreed to make this happen. However, a time or date for the state inspector to visit the Lindenwood neighborhood has not yet been set.
The chief said the department has previously sought advice from the state regarding businesses. But the firefighters normally do not inspect private homes, so the homes with Lindenwood students fall in a new area of responsibility for the fire department.
Pour said Lindenwood’s resident advisers will be given a safety checklist.
For example, students will not be allowed to use a portable heater.
“All we’ve done so far is take a sampling of one house,” Pour said. “We’re just trying to determine how exactly we inspect them. We want the students to be as safe as possible.”