ASU Greek Life conflicts with Tempe zoning laws
Tempe Code Compliance Administrator Jeff Tamulevich said there are options for fraternities and sororities seeking somewhere to live communally, but single-family neighborhoods are out of the question.
“If it is a single family residence, the intent is there would only be families there,” Tamulevich said.
There is no specific law that prevents fraternities or sororities from having chapter houses. However, section 3-100 of the Tempe Zoning and Development Code shows that fraternities and sororities are not permitted in residential areas.
This happens because many of Tempe’s residential areas are single-family neighborhoods. A family is defined as “not more than three persons who are not related by the third degree of consanguinity, adoption, marriage or as domestic partners, living together in a dwelling unit.”
The Tempe Zoning and Development Code does not place the same restrictions on multi-family residences, such as apartments. Fraternities and sororities can live in apartment complexes and host events there, provided that they apply for and receive a use permit from the city.
“A lot of fraternity members are renting units in those apartment complexes, but they need to understand that if they want to host fraternity events there they need a permit,” Tamulevich said.
Another option for fraternities and sororities is to apply for permission to build or move into a chapter house that is not on campus, but is also not in a single-family neighborhood.
Tamulevich said he has only seen one fraternity present an application to live in a multi-family area during the five years he's worked. The request was granted, he said.
City spokeswoman Nikki Ripley said the Tempe is working to close loopholes in the code.
“Our code says that if you want a fraternity home base in a single-family neighborhood, that is illegal," Ripley said. "No exceptions."
Several fraternities used to live on Alpha Drive, but the complex was completely vacated in spring 2012. Without on-campus houses, members of fraternities had to search off campus for refuge but ran into trouble with Tempe Zoning laws.
Business management sophomore Marshall Dirksen, a member of Lambda Chi, said he believes too many incidents involving fraternities on Alpha Drive led to administrative efforts to clean the area up.
"I think the camaraderie and brotherhood you get in a fraternity is something you can only get in college," Dirksen said.
Journalism senior Carly Price said she believes efforts are being taken to minimize Greek presence at ASU. However, Greek life is misunderstood, she said.
“ASU as a college and Michael Crow specifically are trying to revamp its image,” Price said.
Price is a member of the Omega Phi Alpha sorority, which focuses on community service. Members of the sorority have to attend seven mandatory service projects each semester, ranging from a Girl Scout badge day where they assist Girl Scouts in achieving two badges to packing medical supplies that will be donated.
“People just stereotype what they see of Greek life,” Price said. “There are many aspects of Greek life that people don’t see unless they’re in it.”
ASU Greek life has been under scrutiny since freshman Jack Culolias, a pledge brother in Sigma Alpha Epsilon, died in December following a fraternity event at Tempe Marketplace. However, repeated disciplinary violations in past years have given Greek life a reputation for being focused on parties and wild behavior.
“There are people who have been trying for many years to defuse that reputation,” Price said.
ASU spokeswoman Julie Newberg said in an email that Greek life is important to ASU and that the houses eliminated on Alpha Drive were simply not safe or up to code.
"The University is currently engaging students in planning for a new on-campus residential component for all chapters, including those that are currently on campus and those that have chosen to live off campus," Newberg said.
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