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Conversion therapy

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The Upper Mt. Hope neighborhood is part of a busy universe right now, with the College Town and CityGate development projects, as well as the construction of a new Route 390 interchange at Kendrick Road. Amid these growing pains, members of the Upper Mt. Hope Neighborhood Association say they are working with City Hall to preserve the integrity of their neighborhood.

The neighbors are concerned about improper conversions: single-family properties illegally altered to, in many cases, become rentals. That could involve anything from adding rear-access parking to converting a garage into a living space, says Dan Hurley, president of the Upper Mt. Hope group.

"Everybody knows it's a problem," he says. "But what do we do about it?"

Mitch Rowe, the city's director of planning and zoning, says that illegal conversions are a longstanding issue that seems to have gotten worse over the last several years. Sometimes a property will change hands and the new owners don't know that the conversion was done improperly.

"I think enforcement is a piece of it," Rowe says. "I think education is a piece of it. It's going to take some real work, I think, to try to get this resolved long term."

Many of the conversions are done to meet housing demand created by the nearby University of Rochester. Rowe says that any effort to address the problem must involve university officials.

"I'm not prepared at this point to say what the role is or should be," he says. "But they do have a role. These are their students. Not totally, but in large part."

The conversion problem didn't happen overnight, Rowe says, and isn't confined to the Upper Mt. Hope neighborhood.

Rowe says he plans to meet with Upper Mt. Hope neighbors soon.

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