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Amherst Planning Board to consider removing frat, sorority houses from neighborhoods

The Amherst Planning Board on Thursday will consider recommending that fraternity and sorority houses be removed from their current zoning designation, which would restrict them to locating on college and university campuses in the town.

Currently, fraternity and sorority houses are permitted in districts zoned Multifamily Residential District Five (MFR 5) or Multifamily Residential District Six (MFR 6), which include various types of residences, including apartments, townhouses and dormitories. The Planning Board, which meets at 6:30 p.m. in Town Hall, will consider making a recommendation to the Town Board that fraternity and sorority houses be moved to the newly designated Community Facilities zoning, a nonresidential district.

“Fraternities and sororities must be, basically, an accessory use to the school that the fraternity or sorority is associated with,” said Gary Black, assistant planning director for the town.

“The intent there is to give (the college or university) a little more control over the location. There are a number of controls planned. One is that they have to be located on the campus, and two, they have to be associated with a national organization,” Black added.

The code distinguishes between dormitories – such as off-campus student housing – and fraternity and sorority housing.

“By requiring fraternity and sorority houses to be on campus and part of a national organization, the school should have a little more control over discipline and what occurs within the houses,” Black said.

Amherst Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein said Tuesday that he was unaware of any specific problems with fraternity or sorority houses in the town.

“There have been problems with (off-campus) student housing from time-to-time, and we’ve complained to the owners of students housing, but I wasn’t aware if any of them were associated with fraternities or sororities,” Weinstein said.

“When students are not supervised properly, we have problems. That’s our concern, which is to make sure that the student housing projects are properly supervised by the owners,” he added.

The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the matter before voting on whether to make a recommendation to the Town Board that fraternity and sorority houses be moved from the current residential zoning designation to Community Facilities, which is the zoning district in which colleges and universities are permitted.