NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - In 2008, Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity sold its house on Union Street because the now smaller chapter could not afford the building that accommodated dozens of members.
Since then the fraternity, now with 25 members, and its alumni, the Nu Tetarton Alumni Association, have searched for a new home but discovered developers scooped up available properties, paying more than asking price so they could build profitable apartments, the members say.
“This has been a long struggle,” Albert Hakim, vice-president of the alumni association, told members of the city zoning while making a case for the fraternity’s plan to build a new house.
Hakim said the association paid $100,000 above the asking price for a 25-foot wide, 100-foot long lot at 27 Stone Street, a block from the university campus, to build a small house to accommodate 10 undergraduate fraternity members.
Although the neighborhood permits fraternity houses in the “educational institutional" zone, the property encompasses 2,500 square feet, half the 5,000 required in that zone.
Fraternity and alumni officials said there are 17 fraternity houses around the university. Most of the lots in the zone near the College Avenue campus are undersized, they said.
The fraternity wants to build a three-story house 15 feet wide and 73 feet long with seven bedrooms, a structure narrower that the the 150-year-old building currently on the lot but more than three times as long.
Before it can construct build the house from which hang its Greek letters, the fraternity must obtain several variances to build on an undersize lot and to cover a larger slightly larger percentage of the area than permitted by city ordinance.
There would no parking spaces, but Hakim said this would not be “ party house.”
“It’s not a fraternity house like you see in the movies. It’s a small group,” Hakim said.
Alpha Signa Kappa, Hakim said, was formed at Rutgers in 1959, and accepted members of diverse racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Muslim and Buddhist students have been accepted as members, he said.
Several fraternity members now rent apartments in an Easton Avenue house, and the are chapter meetings on Sunday night attended by about 17 people, one member said.
Hakim said the alumni association would own the house, and would hire a property manager.
Zoning board members questioned the efforts of the fraternity to purchase property adjacent to 27 Stone to create a larger lot, and Hakim and others said a broker tried contacting other property owners without success. However, Hakim said the alumni had nothing in writing showing the attempt to get more land.
“It would be helpful to have that information,” board chairwoman Nancy Coppola said.
Board members also suggested reducing plan to decrease the percent of the lot that would be covered.
Planners for the project said they could obtain information about efforts to obtain more land, and said the size of the plan could be slightly reduced.
The hearing on the application was continued to July 23.