Frats negotiate keeping house on Main Street

Dawn Einsel

Two of Kent State’s fraternities will stay downtown after months of negotiations with PARTA.

The City of Kent’s Board of Zoning Appeals finalized the agreement with the approval of several variances for properties on East Main Street, including the Tau Kappa Epsilon and Sigma Tau Gamma houses.

“I think it’s positive that PARTA and the property owners here are working so closely to resolve these problems,” said board member Elizabeth Howard before beginning discussion.

Representatives for PARTA asked for variances on behalf of property owners James Hauch and Bret Roberts. Four properties needed the approval of 10 variances pertaining to the width of driveways, space between parking areas and the multi-modal center’s property line and the loss of parking spaces.

Per the agreement between landowners and PARTA, the parking lots at 300, 312, 230 and 224 E. Main St. will be paved. A wall and fence will also be placed along the property line for safety reasons.

“It appears to be pretty well thought out,” said board member Steve Balazs during the meeting. “It meets the criteria of what we’re trying to look at. It addresses the safety issues. It’s not a public detriment.”

Some other solutions were offered before settling on the current arrangements. Allowing less occupants to rent rooms in the houses and completely moving the fraternities had been discussed.

Hauch said PARTA’s initial presentation for land use left his 10 and 13-bedroom fraternities with only five or six parking spaces.

“Everyone says they want to live in Greek Village,” Hauch said. “But when push comes to shove, if you’re in a fraternity house on Main Street — a block from the bars, a block from campus — it’s the ideal location.”

Bryan Smith, director of planning for PARTA, presented the plans to the board. Members discussed each variance at length. Two amendments were added to the ones concerning parking.

Property owners may be required to place a guardrail along lots to meet safety requirements. Two houses will also lose parking spaces after construction. Because these properties will have more bedrooms than available spaces, the board required owners to provide offsite parking to compensate for the loss and ensure city ordinances are obeyed.

There is no estimated date for the parking improvements at this time, but Smith was pleased with the approvals, noting PARTA had recently reached an agreement with Sigma Chi as well.

“We are happy to have them as neighbors,” Smith said.

Smith said construction for the multi-modal facility will begin within the next two months, starting with the demolition of the Car Parts Warehouse on South Depeyster Street.

Contact Dawn Einsel at [email protected].