City Council discusses fraternity and sorority housing and a $4.2 million purchase

Monday, April 2, 2018 - 10:05pm

Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor and the rest of city council listen to resident concerns and discuss the deer management program and other local issues at City Hall Monday.

Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor and the rest of city council listen to resident concerns and discuss the deer management program and other local issues at City Hall Monday. Buy this photo
Matt Vailliencourt/Daily

In Monday night’s meeting, Ann Arbor City Council amended housing ordinances for fraternities and sororities in Ann Arbor and a $4.2 million empty lot repurchase.

The council passed an ordinance on the Ann Arbor housing code to modify the definition of fraternity or sorority housing in Ann Arbor and to amend special exception use standards.

The ordinance will not allow any fraternities or sororities that are not sanctioned by a university — namely the University of Michigan. As a result, if a fraternity loses its recognition, that property would have to be replaced by a recognized group or the zoning will be revoked. The council’s ordinance comes after the Interfraternity Council imposed a ban on social activities due to several incidents of hazing and sexual assault. The ban was lifted at the beginning of the winter semester, but even after the ban was lifted, one fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau, had their charter revoked due to sexual assault allegations.

Councilmember Zachary Ackerman, D-Ward 3, said the ordinance is another step in discouraging rape culture on campus.

“It’s another tool to curb the culture of sexual assault and hazing,” Ackerman said.

Furthermore, with new “special exception use” standards the ordinance will further control the density and population of the houses. Under this new ordinance, the initial special exception use standard would define how many individuals could live in the house. In order to increase the maximum population allowed in the house, the fraternity or sorority would be forced to apply for another special exception use standard.

Capitalizing on the theme of zoning, the council also focused on a $4.2 million repurchase. During an hour-long closed session, the council discussed the repurchase of the former YMCA lot on 350 S. Fifth Ave.

Amid controversy over the repurchase and due to a stalemate in the voting process, the council was forced to table the discussion and moved the decision to the next council meeting.

The repurchase was part of an agreement created four years ago. Under this agreement the council was given the right to repurchase the site after four years if the agreed upon development didn't come to fruition by April 2018, the city could buy back the lot for either the appraised value or $4.2 million — whichever would be lower.

As a result of the council’s consideration of repurchasing the site, the property’s current owner, Dennis Dahlmann, is currently in the process of suing the city over the property in hopes of getting four more years to bring the project to fruition within the specifications of the council for affordable housing development.

Many members, including Mayor Christopher Taylor, Councilmember Ackerman and Councilmember Chuck Warpehoski, D-Ward 5, argued the purchase would be a simple decision.

“There is a lot of public good for affordable housing, for street lights, even for road repair we could do with that money,” Warpehoski said.

While Councilmembers Jack Eaton, D-Ward 4, and Sumi Kailasapathy, D-Ward 1, argued against the purchase.

“It’s a huge risk,” Eaton said. “We’ve known for quite some time that this building would not be done today, yet here we are discussing what we are going to do. I don’t think it’s responsible for us to use that reserve account for this purpose.”

The resolution needed eight votes to pass. With Eaton, Kailasapathy and Councilmember Annie Bannister, D-Ward 1, voting against the resolution, the council was forced to table the discussion until the next council meeting.