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New housing laws crack down on fraternities, sororities

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POTSDAM — A proposed local law change would impose stricter rules on fraternities and sororities hoping to locate in the village.

Under the existing law, a fraternity or sorority is any student organization recognized by one of the local colleges or a national organization. This may change later this month.

The proposed law would only acknowledge student organizations that are recognized by either SUNY Potsdam or Clarkson University.

“The national organizations have been very difficult for us to track down,” said Potsdam Planning and Development Director Frederick J. Hanss.

Student organizations need special permission to use houses as group dwellings, and this new rule makes it easier for the village to kick them out for bad behavior, according to Mr. Hanss. If a college chooses to rescind its official recognition of a Greek organization, the organization would no longer legally be allowed to stay in a group house in the village.

Another part of the law would change the definition of a fraternity or sorority house. The current law says any home used for organization activities qualifies. The proposed change would specify that members must actually live in the dwelling, rather than simply using it as a clubhouse.

“We’re not interested in having clubhouses in residential neighborhoods,” Mr. Hanss said.

There are 13 known fraternity and sorority houses in the village of Potsdam, according to Code Enforcement Officer Larry J. Colbert. One is already on the brink of losing its home, he said, because the fraternity is no longer recognized by any college or national organization.

Mr. Colbert said he could not give the name of the fraternity yet because its members have not yet been notified that they will have to leave their house.

“We’re in the process of working on that right now,” he said.

A few other Greek organizations are “skating on thin ice,” according to Mr. Hanss, and may be affected by the proposed change.

The Board of Trustees will vote on the proposal on April 15. The village will soon put information about the change on its website, and a public hearing will be held at 6:50 p.m. to discuss the proposal before the vote.

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