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WL Council Candidates Agree On Highrise 'Pause,' Differ On What's Next

Brad Perkins

While the four candidates for the three at-large seats on the West Lafayette City Council agree there should be a pause on building new highrises, they differ somewhat in their other priorities for the future of housing in the city.


During an hour-long candidate forum Wednesday night, incumbent Steve Dietrich said he thinks existing student housing needs more scrutiny.

“I believe more needs to be done to enforce our current ordinances dealing with student rentals to increase fire and personal safety and reducing neighborhood infringement,” he says.

David Sanders, another incumbent, says the city should keep an eye on single-family housing.

“I have been the person on the city council who has been most prominent in asking for a pause in development. We should have a line of demarcation," Sanders says. "We need to preserve the traditional nature of our neighborhoods.”

Others, though, focused on making housing more affordable to more people. Democrat James Blanco  says he’d like to fix up what’s already there.

“We need to work on conquering some of the dilapidated housing, such as waterfront housing and some of these apartment complexes that are in fairly poor shape,” Blanco says.

And incumbent Gerry Thomas offered an idea he hopes might make developers consider building for a wider audience.

“Kinda create an escrow account, so when they come in and look at developing, they put a percentage of the housing aside to look at affordable housing for middle- and low-income families. Whether it’s in the development they’re creating or it’s an off-site development there.”

THE NEXT BIG THING (or is that "bug"?)

As city reaps the rewards of development in its new “downtown” along State Street, the candidates broadly agreed about the city’s current direction, but the four had differing ideas what new amenities the city should pursue.

Dietrich offered a common refrain to what he says residents tell him the city needs.

“From listening to most of the people I bump into on the streets, it would be a Trader Joe’s.”

Blanco suggested building a concert venue. Thomas says people tell him the city needs, in his words, a “white tablecloth” restaurant where they can have an upscale dinner.

And Sanders, a Purdue biology professor running for his second term on the council, suggested an angle that blends tourism with his field of study.

“I believe we need a museum about viruses," Sanders said to a smattering of laughter. "It’s not just my own work, it’s actually a specialty of Purdue University. Astronauts are pretty good, viruses are really great!”


None of the candidates for the city’s six council districts were allowed to participate in the debate, put on by the League of Women Voters of Greater Lafayette (in collaboration with WBAA, Star City Broadcasting and the Journal and Courier newspaper).

That’s because the League has a so-called “empty chair” rule saying debates will not happen if multiple sides are not represented. In each of the six district races, at least one of the candidates chose not to take part or said they were unable, thus canceling those discussions.