Friday, October 14, 2011
Battle of the sexes, continued...
Last night the Amherst Zoning Board of Appeals heard testimony concerning the appeal of a "cease and desist" order by the Amherst Building inspector for a conversion from Sorority to Fraternity at 38 Nutting Avenue on the outskirts of UMass, close to the notorious former Frat Row.
The board made no decision, continuing the public hearing to November 3, as new materials had arrived just that afternoon from opposing attorneys.
According to town attorney Joel Bard, "If the board were to uphold the Building Inspector's determination that a change from a sorority to a fraternity constitutes a change in use under Section 9.22, the Board would need to identify some non-subjective, quantifiable differences between these two institutions. For example, testimony from police and fire departments, or from other Town official documenting the fact that fraternities are a more consistent drain than sororities on the resources of emergency responders or other officials could be a basis for specific findings that the two are different uses."
Maybe they should use my "Party House of Weekend" series, which clearly shows young men are many times more likely to engage in rowdy behavior. Or just go back five or six years when Frat Row was still active. Of course the Frat on the other end of the street--374 North Pleasant--is still active and shows up periodically in the police logs.
Another B-I-G difference between the two is sororities ban alcohol on the premises, obviously frats do not.
Attorney James Heffernan closed his presentation with a thinly veiled threat, pointing out to the three member board that municipal officers who violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment could be sanctioned on a "civil rights" violation.
Attorney Bard counters in writing: "There would be no equal protection violation in upholding the Building Inspector's decision unless the Board based its decision solely on subjective, gender-based impressions or opinions instead of identifying quantifiable differences between the two institution."
The sorority had approximately 40 women living together and the frat currently has 30. While the case is under appeal they can continue to call 38 Nutting Avenue home. Last year the building generated $179,000 in rental income and was assessed by the town at $1,087,400.
If the ZBA does not overturn the Building Inspector's order--and it takes a unanimous vote to overturn--the ongoing rowdy student behavior will have chalked up yet another innocent victim.