Sorority looking for first home

By Becca Clemons

Plans to build a sorority house for Alpha Phi have not yet found a strong foundation.

The sorority is going to postpone its request for a zone change at the Lexington-Fayette County Planning Commission hearing Thursday.

Senior planner Jimmy Emmons said Alpha Phi will postpone its request for a rezoning of 253, 255 and 261 East Maxwell St. from an R-4 high density apartment zone to an R-5 high rise apartment zone, in order to build a structure that could accommodate 45-50 residents.

Alpha Phi International Fraternity Executive Director Linda Kahangi said in an e-mail to the Kernel that Alpha Phi applied for a UK-owned property at 321 Columbia Ave., but it was awarded to another organization.

“We have been searching diligently for a suitable property since our colonization,” Kahangi said, “and have been open to any existing facilities or lots that would provide for a safe, well-kept neighborhood location near campus for our members.”

Alpha Phi has been working with an architect on plans to demolish and rebuild on East Maxwell.

The current plans, presented to the city’s planning commission in December, are for a three-story building to house 45 to 50 undergraduate women and a live-in house director.

The house would be about 17,500 to 18,500 square feet, but those numbers could vary based on the final design.

The plans also include off-street parking.

However, some community members and the Division of Planning Staff are opposed to the plan.

The issue is not with the sorority using the current properties but rather with demolishing them to make way for a new, larger structure.

“The Division of Planning Staff is recommending disapproval of the zone change because our comprehensive plan recommends specifically in this area that the area remain architecturally intact,” Emmons said, “and by recommending approval of the R-5 zoning, we are in fact promoting the destruction of those three buildings.”

“We are recommending approval of the sorority as a conditional use. … We don’t see that the sorority in and of itself would be a bad neighbor for the surrounding properties.”

According to UK’s Hazard Mitigation Plan documenting the population of Greek organizations, the average number of beds for many of the houses on campus is 37, making the proposed house one of higher occupancy than the other Greek residences.

Kahangi said the proposed house’s architect has met with the city many times and has modified the plans based on feedback and concerns expressed by the city and neighborhood association.

“We have worked, and will continue to work, to address the concerns of all the constituent groups and design a facility that will fit well into the neighborhood and make a positive aesthetic contribution,” she said.

The Urban County Council makes the final decision on whether to accept the Planning Commission’s recommendation or hold a second public hearing.

Alpha Phi International Fraternity established its UK chapter, Iota Nu, last fall and has been looking for a house, UK Alpha Phi President Kate Huggs said.

The sorority is based in Evanston, Ill.

The sorority first gave out bids to about 250 girls, Huggs said, and 170 girls are members as of the end of December.

Huggs said the sorority currently meets in the Chem-Phys building.