Fraternity challenges zoning

One conflict between the city of East Lansing and an MSU fraternity could determine the future face of a neighborhood near the heart of campus.

The FarmHouse Fraternity was stalled in its efforts to construct another wing on its house, 151 Bogue St., because of a lingering city ordinance put into effect for the now-dormant East Village development project, which sought to incorporate high-rise, mixed-use retail and living establishments in the Bogue Street area.

The ordinance states every new building in the East Village area must reserve 50 percent of its first floor space as retail space, such as a clothing store — a requirement not meant for a fraternity house but still required in FarmHouse’s development plans, said Isaac Sheppard, the chairman of the FarmHouse Fraternity’s building commission.

“We don’t see a way to have a retail store as part of FarmHouse Fraternity,” Sheppard said.

Representatives from the FarmHouse Fraternity are scheduled to address the East Lansing Planning Commission — who hold the power to approve or deny the project — concerning the issue this Wednesday.

The future of the entire area could hinge on how the conflict is resolved, as it could solidify zoning rules that would determine the type of buildings that can be built in the area, East Lansing City Councilmember Kevin Beard said.

“It would influence the direction redevelopment would take in that area,” Beard said. “It’s been kind of an abstract question up to this point.”

The city council would have to approve another ordinance rezoning the area for the addition to commence without retail space.

“There have been many reasons (the East Village project) hasn’t gone forward, but the zoning remains in place,” said Fred Bauries, who sits on the planning commission.

Sheppard said the proposed addition, which would include more bedroom space for the fraternity members, includes 25 percent retail space, which is only half the space of the city’s requirements. He said he has been in talks with planning department officials, but isn’t sure whether their proposal will be accepted or rejected.

Sheppard stressed he wants to reach a solution that both the city and the fraternity can agree upon.

FarmHouse President David Dreves said the addition is necessary, as membership numbers have increased, but live-in numbers have declined.

Dreves said he thinks the current facility, which was built in 1958, is too small to accommodate members’ current living needs.

Sheppard said it is unclear if the addition ever will commence, as it also has been hard to raise funds because of the project’s ambiguity.

“Part of the question is: Do we stick with our vision for that area?” Beard said.

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