Student fight to keep co-op open

Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 12:03 a.m.
The residents of the Collegiate Living Organization continue to fight for their house after being threatened with eviction the first day of the spring semester.
Their house, a cooperative, sits on the corner of NW 15th Street and 1st Avenue, and is home to 65 residents. It is one of the few places close to campus where students can live cheaply.
But that may change on March 17 if residents and University of Florida officials can't work out an agreement.
Mike Rollo, associate vice president for student affairs, said the building has decayed over the past 15 years. "This building is not a safe environment," Rollo said. "Our main concern is the safety of our students, and we feel it's not safe."
Among the list of UF's complaints was the need for rewiring of cable television and Internet support, a substandard fire alarm and various problems with air circulation as well as kitchen leaks.
On Jan. 9, Rollo, along with the assistant UF director of housing and dean of off-campus affairs showed up at the CLO house and told them they had to find new housing.
"We weren't expecting it," said Sarah Luffman, linguistics major at UF and the public relations officer for CLO. "They just showed up and said, 'We're shutting you down. We're telling you to look for a place right now.' We didn't think they had a right to do that, so we got a lawyer."
Scott David Krueger, the attorney now representing CLO, said, "You just can't evict someone by saying we're closing the doors."
CLO was founded in 1931. In 1940, professor Joseph Fulk donated the land where the current CLO building sits. His intentions were to provide UF students of limited means with inexpensive housing. The three-section building, which was constructed in 1972, totals 17,390 square feet and includes student rooms, bathrooms, storage space, student study areas, a kitchen and dinning area as well as a recreation room and lounge.
The CLO runs as a co-op dormitory where residents are asked to contribute work in order to lower costs.
Although CLO is the beneficiary of Fulk's donation, the Florida State Board of Education is the trustee and is responsible for the property.
UF officials first focused on closing down CLO's kitchen. It was originally scheduled to be closed on Jan. 13.
"I questioned the legal standpoint of UF to shut down the kitchen," Krueger said. "I told CLO that if UF officials were to come and try and shut down the kitchen, then the residents should call the police for trespassing."
On the day the kitchen was scheduled to be closed, Rollo sent out an e-mail informing CLO residents that UF would help them to find alternatives to their current housing and stating that they "will not be penalized financially for the contracted amount of rent in that time period between the day you vacate CLO and March 17."
Two residents of the CLO house have already vacated, but Krueger remains optimistic that CLO can be saved.
"We had a good meeting Friday," Krueger said referring to a meeting with UF officials.
Krueger hopes to work with UF officials so that they are satisfied with the building's safety and so CLO can continue providing low-cost housing.

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