Clockwise: Attorney James Heffernan, Town Planner Jeff Bagg, ZBA: Hilda Greenbaum, Barbara Ford, Eric Beal
The Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously late this evening to uphold the August 26 "cease and desist order" issued by the town building inspector to a fraternity abutting UMass, Pi Kappa Phi, at 38 Nutting Avenue because the particular abode was founded as a sorority, Alpha Chi Omega, and occupied by women since 1964.
Suddenly turning it into an all male endeavor, is a "change in use" which should have required a Special Permit from the ZBA. The new fraternity did not apply for such a permit and simply moved in this past August.
One of the main factors presented as evidence differentiating a sorority from a fraternity concerned alcohol: Sororities forbid it while fraternities allow--some would say encourage--it.
In fact, early last Saturday morning (2:37 AM)--as the hellish winter storm drew a bead on our area--a young woman was discovered ETOH (alcohol overdose) at the 38 Nutting Avenue frat by Amherst police and Amherst Fire Department had to transport her to the Cooley Dickinson Hospital, thus tying up an ambulance for an hour.
Hilda Greenbaum seemed to have reservations about upholding the building inspector's order because she "did not like the stereotyping: little girls are better behaved than little boys."
But she was swayed by fellow member Eric Beal, an attorney, who cited the differences in number of health and safety code violations between fraternities and sororities, the allowance of alcohol, and on site management (lacking in fraternities).
The fraternity now has twenty days to appeal the decision of the ZBA in Hampshire Superior Court or they can simply apply to the ZBA for a Special Permit, which is probably cheaper but will require the unanimous vote of all three members for approval. The building commissioner can institute a fine of $100/day to enforce the cease and desist order now that it has been upheld by the ZBA.