Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Million Dollar Decision


Is a fraternity the same as a sorority? If you ask neighbors I'm sure the response would be a resounding "NO". So is allowing one but not the other tantamount to being Un-American--as in violating the equal protection clause contained in the 14th Amendment? We will soon find out.

On August 26 Amherst building inspector Peter Fein issued a "cease and desist order" to the owners of 38 Nutting Avenue, a privately owned UMass sorority (Alpha Chi Omega) since 1964 now wanting to go the all-male route by leasing out the premises to a fraternity (Pi Kappa Phi).

Apparently sororities, like newspapers and telephone booths, are an endangered species.

The building--with an approved occupancy for 60 people--is currently assessed at $1 million, generating $17,000 annually to the town in property taxes and according to the seller generates $179,000 gross annual rental income. If the Zoning Board of Appeals should uphold the building inspector's order and the structure becomes vacant or it should revert to a family dwelling, the assessed value will drop dramatically.

In fact the assessed value already dropped $55,300 from the previous year.

Since the Sorority is located in the same neighborhood as Frat Row--five notorious party houses now demolished--safe bet neighbors will show up to the October 13 Zoning Board public hearing to argue in favor of the town's interpretation of the zoning to prevent the all male transformation.

Stay tuned.

Frat House 374 North Pleasant St, Sunday morning
ZBA October 13, 6:30 PM - 10:00 PM @ Town Room, Town Hall

Alpha Chi Omega – Appeal of the Building Inspector’s Cease and Desist order, regarding the use of the premises as a fraternity house, under Section 10.1 of the Zoning Bylaw, at 38 Nutting Avenue (Map 11A, Parcel 87, R-G Zoning District). ZBA FY2012-00006 – Winnifred Manning – To install a five foot fence within the required front yard setbacks, under Section 6.29 of the Zoning Bylaw, at 61 Fearing Street (Map 11C, Parcel 99, R-G Zoning District).

Sales listing for 38 Nutting Avenue, Amherst

Property card for 38 Nutting Avenue, Amherst


Anonymous said...

Zoning approval based on gender. That will be a good one for us to waste taxpayer dollars in court. This town loves to spend on losing battles.

LarryK4 said...

Depends on whether the Judge was ever in a fraternity or not.

Otter the Rush Chairman said...

The issue here is not whether they broke a few rules, or took a few liberties with their female party guests; they probably did. But you can't hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few sick, perverted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn't we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn't this an indictment of our educational institutions in general?
I put it to you, Larry! Isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can try to do what you want to them, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you bad-mouth the United States of America!

...and hopefully the Judge is Greek

Anonymous said...

Otter! Otter! Otter!.........Awesome response. Bringing some overdue levity to this blog!

Anonymous said...

Was it over when the German's bombed Pearl Harbor?

Anonymous said...

why would vacancy reduced the property taxes assessed? If my house is on the market and doesn't sell (and is unoccupied) I would still have to pay property taxes and its assessed value would be unaffected by whether it is occupied or not. Let's hope the zoning blocks frat occupancy and who cares if its stays unoccupied? Not our problem...

Otter the Rush Chairman said...

Vacancy would reduce the property value because the property is currently deemed for a large amount of tenants instead of a single family, meaning that the house of tenants is producing an income whereas a residential home does not. Value in this case is based on multiple factors including but not limited to NOI (net operating income) and CAP Rate; both those figures would drop to zero if the house was unoccupied thus making its value substantially lower for any prospective buyers.