Wednesday, December 4, 2013
ZBA Okays Frat Conversion
The Amherst Zoning Board of Appeals last night seemingly changed their minds about the former Alpha Chi Omega Sorority at 38 Nutting Avenue (which touches UMass property) and will now allow its conversion of use to a Fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi.
The Board found the transformation/conversion is "not substantially more detrimental to the neighborhood than the existing use."
Two years ago the ZBA voted unanimously to uphold the "cease and desist order" of the town building inspector who found fault with the conversion as being a "change in use" (females to males) which should require a "Special Permit" from the ZBA.
The owners of Alpha Chi Omega immediately filed suit against the ZBA, and the case started two years later in Hampshire Superior Court (this past September) but was quickly dropped in favor of the meeting that occurred last night.
According to Senior Town Planner Jeff Bagg:
"The ZBA voted unanimously to approve the extension of the pre existing non conforming sorority use to a “Fraternity or Sorority building, social dormitory, or similar use related to Amherst College, Hampshire College, or the University of Massachusetts” (same language as Section 3.326 of the Zoning Bylaw).
Because it is a pre existing non conforming use, the ZBA had to make a finding under Section 9.22 that the extension was not substantially more detrimental to the neighborhood than the existing use.
They made that finding based on the conditions which limit the total number of occupants (to the same number that was allowed under the 2005 permit), a requirement for a resident manager, and a requirement for review and approval of a new management prior to occupancy by any other tenant.
Additionally, the relationship to one of the institutions was deemed important as it provides an additional layer of regulations which do not necessarily apply to other non-institutionally related rentals.
Finally, consideration was also given for the fact that the use under goes bi-annual inspections by various Town departments, where other rentals do not. "