Despite numerous hurdles, Yale’s newest fraternity might soon set foot in their new house.
At a public hearing Tuesday evening, the zoning board of appeals unanimously approved further construction on 48 Dixwell Ave., the site Chi Psi President Taylor Rogers ’17 told the News in October would be the fraternity’s permanent location. The building was set to be condemned by the city due to its poor condition before contractor Spencer Tracy sought to redevelop it, his lawyer Bernard Pellegrino said. New Haven Building Official James Turcio signed a work order to halt construction last month because an unapproved third floor and roof were being built. Pellegrino argued that this delay was unwarranted and attributed the stop work order to a miscommunication between city departments and his client. He told the board his client had included the third floor and roof in the original plans and that the city had approved them.
“It was a misunderstanding, quite frankly, between the client, zoning officials and building officials,” Pellegrino said.
Rogers told the News in October that Chi Psi was supposed to move into their new house in August, but continued construction delays — including a do-over of the house’s foundation for better stability — forced members to relocate to a temporary location two miles away on Winchester Avenue in Newhallville. Before he signed the lease for the Dixwell House, Rogers included a clause requiring the landlord to provide “suitable and comparable” housing if the building is not finished by the start of the 2015–16 academic year. Rogers declined to comment for this article. Tracy is listed as both the tenant and the contractor in the construction permits for the Dixwell house.
Pellegrino said the house will be split into four apartment units, which will be leased to four individuals. He declined to specify who those individuals will be.
The Dixwell property is located in a BB Zone, where fraternities are not permitted to reside, according to city zoning ordinances.
City plan officials said zoning rules on fraternities limit them to property owned by their university, the New Haven Register reported.
Norman Scipio, who is listed as the owner of the Dixwell property, could not be reached for comment.
Randi Rodriguez, the executive director of the nonprofit ’r Kids Family Center located across the street from 48 Dixwell Ave., contested at the Tuesday hearing that Tracy misled her to believe the house was being redeveloped because it has historic value.
Rodriguez said she is concerned by the prospect of a fraternity being in the neighborhood. She said the only time ’r Kids Family Center has been damaged was the result of fraternity inebriation and underage drinking. Her windows were smashed and property toward the back of the center was destroyed.
“Eight fraternity guys are trouble when our children are walking across the street,” Rodriguez said at the hearing.
Chi Psi house residents on Winchester Avenue told the News in October the brothers were engaging positively with their neighbors and the broader Newhallville community. As construction on the Dixwell property continues, the fraternity has been without a permanent home for more than a year.
Former Chi Psi member Baker Duncan ’48 purchased a house on Lake Place for the fraternity last February. The fraternity held social events in the property while it was being renovated. After neighbors complained to the city, Chi Psi withdrew its application to have the property zoned under city regulations as a fraternity house. Duncan later sold the house, forcing Chi Psi to seek other housing options, none of which were suitable until the fraternity stumbled upon the Dixwell property.
Braden Currey ’17, who currently lives in the Newhallville house, said Tracy was transparent about the roadblocks in the renovation process for the Dixwell house. Currey added that the Chi Psi national organization’s in-house property management team is also helping the members navigate the housing process.
Currey said the construction delays do not bother him, given that it was just “a series of very unfortunate events that have caused the delays.”
“I think [Tracy is] doing everything in his power to get [the house] done as fast as possible,” Currey said. “[He is] not making revenue while we’re not living in it.”
Buck, a golden retriever the fraternity adopted this year, is looking forward to the additional space and new garage he can play in when Chi Psi relocates to 48 Dixwell Ave., Currey said.
Other public hearings held Tuesday included a discussion on the young men’s homeless shelter accompanying the city’s new “The Escape” center for teens and the height of two minarets being constructed for a mosque in Quinnipiac Meadows. Both cases were unanimously approved by the board.