Prince George's County Council member James Herl, responding to constituent complaints about the number of fraternity and sorority houses in his College Park-based district, yesterday introduced a bill he hopes will restrict the number of such houses that can be located in the county in the future.
The bill requires members of fraternities and sororities to submit plans for a special exception to establish residence in medium- to low-density neighborhoods. They must obtain approval from the Planning Board, the Licenses and Permits Office, the Zoning Hearing examiner and the County Council, most of whom are required to consider public testimony in their decisions. The bill also requires a house to have one off-street parking space for every two residents.
Presently, fraternal organizations are required only to obtain occupancy permits before moving into existing buildings.
"Certainly the uses are incompatible with a residential neighborhood ," said Herl, a graduate of the University of Maryland in College Park. Herl said he never belonged to a fraternity, "but my aide has. He knows what hell he raised."
College Park residents have had longstanding complaints about the number of fraternity houses in the neighborhood, Herl said, particularly about noise, occasional minor vandalism and traffic congestion. This particular bill, Herl said, was prompted by the concerns of residents along College Avenue, where two fraternities and one sorority are already located. Residents complained, Herl said, when they learned that the owner of an apartment house at the corner of College and Rhode Island avenues was seeking to lease the building to the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity.
One such resident, H. Berlin Texier, appeared before the College Park City Council Nov. 23. In a letter sent to the council before his appearance he wrote: "I'm sure many of the brothers and pledges, and sisters too, regard College Avenue and Knox Road as Fraternity Road II, and get very annoyed with a city resident when their parties get interrupted by a phone call . . . or somebody takes it into their head to complain about broken beer bottles . . . or when some old cranky resident can't see the humor in a bunch of fellows shouting and marching up the street at 3 a.m. . . . ."
The owner of the apartment house that caused the most recent citizen concerns, William Harloff, declined to comment on the matter yesterday, and representatives of the University of Maryland's campus affairs office could not be reached