Students flood meeting to fight property rules

Fraternity and sorority members changed the neighborhood group's agenda to get their perspective heard.

Chelsie Hanstad

Approximately 50 University fraternity and sorority members flooded a Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association meeting Tuesday night to voice opinions on the proposed historic designation of houses along University Avenue.

Tension was high as fraternity and sorority members entered the meeting and attempted to reorganize the night’s agenda to focus on their concerns first. If the City Council passes the motion, any alterations they make to the houses’ exteriors would need to be cleared by a city agency and likely be more costly.

The students said they wanted more representation on the board before it decided whether to back the possible Minneapolis City Council resolution that would designate several fraternity and sorority houses as historic properties.

“The current rules of Marcy-Holmes Ö give preference to residents who live there permanently,” said Interfraternity Council President John Kokkinen, who spoke on behalf of the students. “We’re kept out of the loop. We’re not given any representation.”

One fraternity representative said he questioned why the buildings need historic preservation status if their owners have kept them up for this long.

Second Ward council member Paul Zerby said current owners would be allowed to demolish buildings if they chose and that some want to be sure that does not happen.

“It’s a matter of a piece of our history being deemed worthy of preserving,” Zerby said.

At its last monthly meeting, the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association voted to support whatever recommendation the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission made to the City Council. At the commission’s meeting Tuesday, it voted unanimously to back historic designation.

Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association President Kelly Carver said there were many times the association made recommendations to the City Council that did not go through. The motion still has to go through the City Council before the final decision is made.

Takeover “bad form”

“This is bad form,” Carver said in response to the students’ entrance and request to change the meeting’s agenda.

Other meeting attendees were displeased at the change in plan.

“It’s kind of like taking the group hostage,” said one attendee as board members determined if the agenda change was proper.

Arguments went back and forth after Kokkinen read the changes he wanted to make to the agenda.

“If people aren’t going to be respectful tonight, they should just leave,” said Jen Duerre, president of the Panhellenic Council.

One attendee called two of the fraternity members’ agenda items arrogant. Another said one request was a violation of the First Amendment.

When there is an item of intense interest on an agenda, it is not unusual to move directly to that item, said Edward Goetz, professor at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and director of the Urban and Regional Planning Program.

In the city of Minneapolis, neighborhood associations serve an advisory role to the City Council, representing citizens’ views on issues, such as development, that involve specific neighborhoods, Goetz said.

Carver recommended the students contact City Council members. They replied they had already done so.