City blocks Greek life in central zoning district

The Tallahassee City Commission barred fraternities and sororities from occupying homes in Central Urban 45 zoning districts going forward on Wednesday. There are still 11 other districts Greek organizations can move into.
Photo credit: Tallahassee City Commission

The Tallahassee City Commission on Wednesday approved an amendment to the zoning codes designed to keep sororities and fraternities out of the central zoning district.

The unanimously approved amendment “removes fraternities and sororities as an allowable land use from the Central Urban 45 zoning district.”

The decision comes months after Florida State University’s chapter of Pi Lambda Phi purchased a duplex in the district on East College Avenue.

The fraternity was the first non-sectarian fraternity that accepted members with no consideration of racial or religious backgrounds.

“We request that you look at all the facts and be conscious of making targeted changes that could have far reaching impact across the entire city,” Pi Lambda Phi and FSU alumnus Ramon Guin told commissioners at the meeting.

He said the complaints of the residents were not viable enough to change the zoning codes.

Neighbors in the highly residential area spilled into the city commission meeting in September with grievances co-signed by Mayor John Dailey.

“It is absolutely absurd to have a fraternity on College Avenue and it needs to be stopped immediately,” Dailey said at the September meeting.

Only a handful of residents griped about the presence of the fraternity in close vicinity to their homes.

The new amendment doesn’t kick Pi Lambda Phi out of the neighborhood; however, it does stop the fraternity from expanding on the property and prevents any other Greek organizations from moving into CU-45 zones.

The fraternity plans to house at least six of its members in the duplex after renovations are completed.

Phi Beta Sigma and FSU alumnus Mikey Lamarre said the commission’s decision was a targeted attack.

“If people are paying their rent and aren’t breaking any laws, they should be able to do what they want on their own property at their own discretion,” Lamarre said.

He said it is already difficult to find a house on or near campus to use and the city is “clearly targeting a certain demographic.”

“The fact that these fraternities make a way regardless and the city is trying to stop it, just goes to show, we really can’t have anything,” Lamarre said.

There are still 11 zoning districts that fraternities and sororities can move into, and the majority of FSU and FAMU Greek life homes are in University Transition and Central Core districts.

“We just want a place to fellowship, help the community, enjoy our college years, and most importantly, live in peace,” Lamarre said.