Worry and fear are pressing in for some Buckeye Village residents as they could potentially face parking fees higher than the cost of a month’s rent.
“I am afraid … after they make such a decision because it is very easy for these people sitting on the highest rank of chairs at the university and they don’t have any concern about how (we) live,” said Buckeye Village resident Esra Okutan.
To protest the new fees, Okutan, along with fellow Buckeye Village residents, marched into Bricker Hall Wednesday with a petition listing nearly 300 signatures against the new parking fees at Buckeye Village and the intent of handing it straight to Interim President Joseph Alutto.
Although Alutto was not available to take the document himself, Ohio State spokesman Gary Lewis took the petition with the promise of a decision on the fees Thursday.
“It’s good to know that they have expressed (their concerns) and they have their petitions. Dr. Alutto has promised and is committed to ensure that promise is upheld in getting them that information (Thursday),” Lewis said.
Parking fees of either $402 or $620 yearly are set to be put in place for the 2014-15 academic year, a change residents were informed of in an email Feb. 17 that stated “parking no longer will be included as part of the Buckeye Village housing contract.”
Buckeye Village is located across the Olentangy River on Defiance Drive near Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium and features family housing apartments through the university, intended for OSU students with spouses or children.
The email Buckeye Village residents received said monthly housing rates will not be raised for the following academic year. Current rent at Buckeye Village is $545 per month for a one-room apartment and $685 per month for a two-bedroom apartment, according to the University Housing website.
As the spouse of a graduate student, Okutan said she doesn’t have a work permit and relies on her husband’s income.
“We have a limited budget and the parking issue is the most influential change since the last year … it looks like we are going to pay more for parking than we pay for gas. It affects how we spend in the future so it is a really important decision if they give free parking or something cheaper,” she said.
The key to the residents’ parking dilemma might come Thursday though, as the petition to Alutto could be the last step in their quest to prevent parking fees.
“We’ve tried to not make a big deal, we’ve tried to be respectful, and ultimately it’s led us to Alutto’s office,” said Andrew Skabelund, a Ph.D. student in African history and Buckeye Village resident.
For the first time in 67 years, Vasquez said, Buckeye Village tenants are looking at paying for a bundled parking package — a package many don’t even deem useful because of the existence of a Buckeye Village CABS bus.
“If we are going to pay for parking, we want to just pay to park at our home and it needs to be a lot more reasonable,” said Leslie Vasquez, chair of Buckeye Village residents’ council and fourth-year in public affairs.
For some, that much money is something that could force them out of the area.
“I’m already on a fixed income and $654 is already more than half my monthly income so that would be a huge blow,” said Kim Chapman, a single mom studying environmental sciences. “I’m a little worried. I’ve been looking into apartments in the area but I have a small little girl. I don’t want to live in and around a bunch of students and I would like to have a green space, and Buckeye Village offers that green space and offers the safety of having families all around you or older college students who aren’t running amuck.”
Vasquez said she, too, is concerned about the financial burden the fees could cause residents.
“While people can probably come up with that amount of money, it’s just a ridiculous amount of money to pay to park at your apartment,” Vasquez said. “For those that are on an exceedingly tight budget … you’d have to cut back somewhere.”
This isn’t the first battle between Buckeye Village and the university over parking. In Spring Semester 2013, a similar fee was set to be put in place for the 2013-14 academic year, but after protests from residents and petitions, university officials decided not to charge residents.
Student Life spokesman Dave Isaacs said in February the decision was made to charge for parking next year “in order to be consistent in its approach to parking for students who live in university housing, regardless of location.”
“Last year, because the contract renewal timeline was compressed, the university chose to fund parking at Buckeye Village,” Isaacs said. “This year we are giving residents significantly more time to prepare for this change and make housing decisions for next year.”
Skabelund said the important thing is ensuring future residents don’t have to fight the same battle.
“The biggest thing has been to protect the Buckeye Village community,” Skabelund said. “It’s about protecting our neighbors and future Buckeye Village residents that they aren’t price gouged on parking.”
Vasquez echoed that sentiment.
“We are concerned for the future for Buckeye Village residents. We want to see that there is a permanent solution,” she said.