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EL City Council approves one fraternity, denies another

Delta Psi Alumni house on application
Posted at 9:59 AM, Apr 01, 2022

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The City of East Lansing has seen an uptick in applications for fraternities. At their last meeting, city council had two application approvals on the agenda, but only one passed.

Fraternities have been requesting special use permits for housing in the area and Council Member Lisa Babcock said she thinks this could be due to Michigan State University's sophomore live on requirement.

“Some of the applicants have flat out said, you know, we used to have these. These were annex houses for a fraternity or a sorority, and now we're getting them approved as a fraternity or sorority because we need the official status to be able to have sophomores live there," Babcock said.

In a 2-2 vote, city council voted to deny a special use permit for Delta Psi Alumni to establish a fraternity on Ann Street.

Babcock was one of the no votes.

“Well, it's a land use issue," Babcock said. "The fraternity on Ann St. was really not constructed to be a traditional fraternity.”

The Delta Psi Alumni Housing Corporation bought the 2.5 story Ann St. property in 2021 with the intention of using it to house 15 of its 45 members and host sponsored events. Babcock said parking for large meetings and space inside the building would be an issue.

“They don't have a meeting room, but they want to hold meetings for up to 40 people," Babcock said. "It doesn't have a shared kitchen and dining area with a meal plan the way they often do, but there would be many different people behind locked doors, sharing a kitchen.”

Ed Wager is a resident and vice president of the Bailey Community Association located behind the Ann St. fraternity location. In public comment at the meeting, he said since a fraternity was established near the neighborhood on Collingwood Drive they've seen more trash, broken glass and traffic in the area and doesn't want to bring in another fraternity.

“In November of 2021, a student died in our neighborhood after a fraternity party," Wager said. "This tragic event and irresponsible behavior lead us to believe that creating or expanding additional fraternities would be detrimental to our neighborhood and could undermine the academic purposes of the universities two year on campus residency policy.”

At the same council meeting, another fraternity on Grand River Ave. was approved for a permit. So what's the difference?

“If you look at a map, you see that the fraternity or sorority house that was approved on Grand River is surrounded by other student housing and other Greek houses. It fronts Grand River, and is right across from Crunchy's and other student driven businesses,” Babcock said.

While the Ann St. fraternity is surrounded by some student housing, other houses are rented or owned by families.

“We have a neighborhood around it where people have more of a conventional nine-to-five lifestyle, they may have children, and that house just was not set up for the purposes that the applicants intend to use it,” Babcock said.

"While last week's decision was not in our favor, we understand and respect the community's feedback and would like to continue discussions with community groups to address concerns wherever the fraternity will reside in the future,” wrote Paul Schultz, President of the Delta Psi Alumni Housing Corporation.

Babcock said Delta Psi Alumni can reapply for a special use permit and ask the council to reconsider it at a meeting where all five members of the council are present.

Mayor Ron Bacon was absent during the last vote.

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