Tuesday, August 08, 2006

New Zoning Rules in Athens Makes Greeks Second Class Citizens

New zoning rules for Greek housing comes under fire by University of Georgia
By Blake Aued

University of Georgia officials on Wednesday criticized the Athens-Clarke Commission's passage of new rules regulating where fraternity and sororities can build houses off-campus.

The commission unanimously voted near midnight Tuesday to make fraternities and sororities a "special use," giving itself the power to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to allow them to build in areas zoned for multi-family residences and commercial businesses.

Fraternity and sorority houses were allowed in those zoning districts without special approval before a temporary ban passed in February.

UGA released a statement Wednesday criticizing the vote. "Like the university, our students strive to be good citizens and are proud to be a part of the city of Athens, making numerous contributions to its welfare and quality of life," the statement said in part. "That is why we find it disappointing when the city takes actions that appear to be anti-student."

The commission passed the new rules in response to the UGA fraternity Kappa Alpha's plans to move from South Lumpkin Street -- where the university is taking back five fraternities' land for an unspecified future use -- to West Hancock Avenue, and the Sigma Nu fraternity's plans to replace its partially burned house with one off Prince Avenue.

Residents there said Greeks will bring noise, traffic and parking problems, and in the case of the Old South-themed Kappa Alpha, possibly racial conflicts.Kappa Alpha will not be affected by the new rules because it's already filed for permits to built its house, but Sigma Nu will have to get approval from the commission before it begins building.About a dozen people spoke in favor of the restrictions Tuesday night, but at least one UGA student said she felt like a second-class citizen.

"I have 100 sisters just like me who donate their time and efforts to this town, and I think it's unfair we're not being treated like citizens," said Gwendolyn Boone, a member of the Delta Gamma sorority.

In a rare move, Athens-Clarke Mayor Heidi Davison spoke up at Tuesday's meeting to respond to claims that the county government is anti-student."It's not whether we like you or not, it's not whether we think you do good work," Davison said. "It's a zoning and land-use decision."

The university has offered land on River Road to the five fraternities that must leave South Lumpkin Street by 2008 and continues to try to convince them to take the offer, UGA spokesman Tom Jackson said."Our intention is to make a situation where the fraternities don't have to leave campus," Jackson said.

But UGA could do more, Lynn said."If they were serious about controlling student behavior and that type of thing, they'd have offered these guys a sweetheart deal on River Road," Lynn said.

Copyright 2006 Athens Times-Herald.