The Prince George's County Council, over the opposition of the University of Maryland, took action yesterday that will severely limit the expansion of fraternity and sorority houses in the city of College Park.
Several council members said they were reluctant to approve the restrictions on conversion of buildings to student use, but said they hoped the rules would spur the university to resolve longstanding grievances between residents and the fraternities.
Residents on a street where apartment buildings have been converted for fraternities complained about noise, wild parties and trespassing.
"It effectively means that there will be no opportunity for fraternity expansion in the near future," said Drury Bagwell, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs, who came to the hearing in Upper Marlboro along with about a dozen representatives from student, fraternity and sorority groups to oppose the resolution.
The measure, sponsored by Councilman James Herl and adopted unanimously, requires a special exception from the County Planning Commission, a zoning hearing examiner and the council before a multi-family dwelling is converted to use by a fraternity or sorority. The requirements include proof the fraternity "will not adversely affect the character, use or quiet enjoyment of adjoining properties."
There has been a history of friction between College Park and the fraternity houses in its midst. Some 19 fraternity and sorority houses are interspersed with boarding houses and private homes in an area of about five square blocks near the campus, university officials said.
"The problem is a lack of communication of the needs of different types of residents," said Michael Canning, president of the Student Government Association at the school. "In the area in question, there's almost no residents--just boarding houses," said Canning.
But homeowner Geraine Belisle said, "There's so many guests that their yards can't contain it, so they're in my yard . . . . It's trampling all the shrubbery."