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Frats fight back, but can they win the battle against Vaughan?

September 17th, 2010 · No Comments

Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity members cleaning up Taddle Creek Park over the summer. Courtesy Delta Kappa Epsilon.

By Tim Legault

Fraternity houses are voicing their concerns over the proposed changes in rooming house bylaws and licensing rules that Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina) has been championing for some time.

The planned changes would require the properties to have yearly inspections that ensure the buildings are to code.

Failing to fix any building code offenses could result in the fraternity having its license pulled so that it would no longer be able to operate.

Adam Carson, who represents about 20 fraternities in the area, attacked the idea at a public meeting for the new Harmonized Zoning Bylaw on Aug.19.

“We object to the classification and the inclusion under the regulatory and licensing components of bylaw for rooming houses,” said Carson.

However, fraternity houses are not mentioned in the Harmonized Zoning Bylaw which was passed on Aug. 25. Nothing has changed for fraternity houses yet and nothing is preventing them from operating at this point.

What is required for fraternities to no longer be exempt from the rooming house bylaws is for the necessary licensing changes to be passed at the Licensing and Standards Committee in the new year. If that passes, only then will fraternities be effected by the rooming house bylaws in the HZB.

Christian Chan, a representative of local fraternity Phi Kappa Pi (85 Bedford Rd.) has started the Facebook group, “STOP ADAM VAUGHAN’S EXEMPTION REMOVAL.”

“Adam Vaughan is attempting to remove fraternity and sorority houses as a viable source of off campus affordable housing for students. The ultimate result is the closing of our chapters at U of T and other institutions,” wrote Chan on his group page.

His logic is that the mandatory inspections would force properties that are not up to code to increase their rent to cover the cost of necessary renovations. Consequently, students would not move into fraternity homes because of their increased rents and the offending fraternities would go bust.

“Fraternities are no longer the enclave of the elite as they may have once been,” wrote Chan in an email. “Yearly rent at our property is less than $5000, which compares up to and over $13,000 for U of T residences.”

Courtesy Delta Kappa Epsilon.

Chan says his fraternity undergoes yearly inspections to maintain their fire insurance coverage, which they must have, and that his frat is managed by professionals and university graduates.

Chan’s group has even prompted Mike Yen, who will be running against Vaughan in the upcoming council election on Oct. 25, to support the disgruntled fraternities.

“Typically students don’t vote. This is why Adam Vaughan has moved against you. On Oct. 25, show Adam Vaughan that you do have a voice and vote him out. I will reinstate the exemption as your new councillor,” wrote Yen on the Facebook page.

As for those against the changes, Vaughan does not see much room discussion.

“It’s not a horrendously onerous set of obligations,” said Vaughan, referring to the proposed rules.

“There’s worry that it’s going to cost people and arm and a leg—it’s not a huge expense for the building, but it does mean they are going to have to make sure that if they throw a keg party, they might want to think about spending the money on fire alarm batteries, not on togas.

“Asking someone to respect the fire code and the building code is not something which you have to beg them to do.”

“It’s really a safety issue. In particular, in a ward that has had a couple of fires in older buildings, the Annex houses are pretty close together, and if we ever had a tragedy in one house, it would spread to the second house very quickly.”

Adam Carson said that fraternities are already required to meet sufficient safety standards.

“As for the questions of safety and care given to maintain an environment that is safe for the people living in [fraternity houses] and the state of upkeep and maintenance of the houses, we would like to point out the fact that these properties are mandated not only by our international organizations but by our insurance policy holders that both our safety and maintenance of these properties are kept at a very high level.”

Tyler Haggerty, president of Fraternity Sorority Life Club, is worried that the bylaw changes would give the city too much control over fraternity houses. He felt that with even minor offences, like a noise violation, could lead to severe action from the city. He was also concerned that Vaughan has a bias against fraternity houses.

On Aug. 14, to improve community relations within the neighbourhood and “demonstrate the positive role fraternities play in the community,” Delta Kappa Epsilon (157 St. George St.) held a community cleanup of Taddle Creek Park, followed by a BBQ and a silent toy auction, with proceeds from the auction going towards The SickKids Foundation.

“Hopefully now we’ll be able to help the community and show Adam Vaughan that we’re a lot better than he thinks,” said Mark Koltowski, the fraternity’s vice-president.

Vaughan said the new rules should be in place by next year, when the licensing rules will be finalized.

“Parents sending their kids off to university, they’d like to think that the houses their kids are staying in are safe.”

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