Amid complaints from neighbors and the University, Yale’s chapter of the Chi Psi fraternity withdrew its Board of Zoning Appeals application for its 13 Lake Pl. property.
In an Oct. 31 letter addressed to the Zoning Commissioners and obtained by the News, Associate Vice President for New Haven Affairs and University Properties Lauren Zucker expressed the University’s concerns that Chi Psi would further exacerbate existing complaints about trash and noise along Lake Place. Currently, Delta Kappa Epsilon and Alpha Delta Phi occupy two houses at 73–79 Lake Pl. and 23 Lake Pl., respectively.
Nicolas Medina LAW ’16, who lives adjacent to an existing fraternity on Lake Place, said littering and unreasonable noise have been a continuous issue.
“We think that adding another fraternity to Lake Place is the worst idea imaginable,” he said.
According to a Nov. 11 article in the New Haven Independent, four female law school students who live on Lake Place wrote a letter on Nov. 7 to the Zoning Board saying they feared a new fraternity would increase cases of sexual harassment in the area.
Medina supported this, adding that women living in the area have the right to feel safe in their neighborhood.
“We have gotten the impression that the fraternity men on Lake Place disrespect women on a regular basis,” he said. “This is unacceptable.”
Zucker, in her letter, wrote that the fraternities share a street populated with graduate students, their families and other local residents, expressing her concern that the presence of a third fraternity would be a detrimental addition to the community.
“Over the years, these community members have consistently reported issues associated with trash and noise from the existing fraternity homes on Lake Place,” Zucker wrote in her letter. “Yale strives to be a good neighbor in the New Haven community and a concentration of fraternities on any one street may not further that goal.”
As a result, Zucker wrote, the University had concerns about Chi Psi’s pursuit of the 13 Lake Pl. property.
However, Chi Psi members interviewed said they were unfairly grouped with other fraternities on campus. They added that they withdrew their application on Nov. 10 because the complaints would only prolong the already arduous zoning application process.
“I have no comment on DKE or ADPhi, but I think it’s a mistake to lump all fraternities together,” Yale College Council president and founder of Yale’s chapter of Chi Psi Michael Herbert ’16 said.
Jack Belcaster ’16, current Chi Psi president, said the fraternity also chose to withdraw its application because the house needed to undergo extreme renovations. Still, he added that before the complaints from neighbors and the University surfaced, the application process had been progressing smoothly.
Several members of the neighborhood even supported Chi Psi ownership of the property, Belcaster said. However, when the city’s Planning Committee heard the opposition from the four female law students, it decided not to recommend that the zoning proceed despite previously giving the group a positive recommendation, he added.
Baker Duncan ’48, a former member of Chi Psi, bought the house in February and made plans for it to be transferred to the national fraternity over time as the property was renovated and passed through the Board of Zoning Appeals. However, after the fraternity decided to withdraw the application, Duncan sold it to another buyer on Friday, Herbert and Belcaster said.
“I still thought we could win the zoning position whereas [Duncan] did not think it was possible,” Belcaster said. “Once that was settled, we were all on board with moving forward, and we’re very excited with where we are right now.”
Herbert and Belcaster both said they felt frustrated that complaints about existing fraternities’ behavior were assumed to be relevant to Chi Psi. Those complaints, they said, did not acknowledge Chi Psi’s distinct identity as a fraternity.
Belcaster said unlike the other fraternities on campus, Chi Psi emphasizes brotherhood events — including camping and paintball outings — rather than social events. Herbert added that fraternities at Yale — ranging from the Christian fraternity Beta Upsilon Chi to ADPhi — are not all uniform.
Belcaster said that Chi Psi reached out to the graduate students who submitted complaints as well as to the University. While the graduate students declined to have a discussion with the fraternity leaders, both Herbert and Belcaster said the University submitted a new letter in favor of the organization, though it is now unnecessary given the fraternity’s withdrawal.
The Yale chapter of Chi Psi was founded in 2014. An earlier chapter of the fraternity was disbanded in 1963.