City to keep hands off frat houses
By Daniel Dale
Annex fraternities and their wary neighbours should continue to work out their problems on their own, city staff say in a report that opposes new licensing rules.
Councillor Adam Vaughan had asked the city to come up with a licensing plan after residents who live near a cluster of University of Toronto fraternity and sorority houses complained of unruly late-night parties and other nuisances.
The licensing department said blitzes could be conducted to enforce existing rules. But it argued against imposing new ones. It said it cannot license fraternities as businesses or rooming houses. And it said that the community’s own efforts to improve the situation “hold the promise of a grassroots solution.”
Vaughan agreed. He said neighbours’ complaints are “way down” in the past year, as “the fraternities and sororities have taken responsibility for the behaviour of their members.” And he said the community is close to finalizing a system for resolving disputes.
There are 24 fraternities and sororities in the area, according to Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina). He said “one or two” are a problem, down from about six last year.
David Harrison, chair of the Annex Residents’ Association, said he did not want to express an opinion until he consulted with his neighbours. But he said the situation had improved only because residents had “spent hours and hours and hours” working on it. They do not want to have to do so again, he said.
“Perfection, is, I suppose, out of the question. It is better. But each year it’s a different story because each year you have different people in every fraternity,” Harrison said. “I think we certainly have the attention of the elders of these fraternities, who seem to genuinely want to improve things. But what we’ve looked for is: If self-regulation were to fail, then what?”
The self-regulation system, according to the report, relies in part on the “Greek Council” system that governs fraternities. The council, city staff said dryly, “can influence the individual chapters under the threat of ‘shunning.’” If chapters continue to behave badly, the international organizations they belong to could take away their official status.
“That’s when they become eligible for licensing as a rooming house,” Vaughan said.
The fraternities’ spokesperson could not be reached Wednesday.