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Newsletter > January 2014 > "North Carolina Law Removes University Recognition From Zoning Considerations"
North Carolina Law Removes University Recognition From Zoning Considerations
Micah Kamrass, Manley Burke, email@example.com
Earlier this year, the North Carolina general assembly passed a law that deals with a particular issue pertaining to the zoning of fraternity and sorority houses. This new state law was passed as a much larger piece of legislation called the Regulatory Reform Act of 2013. The new law prohibits North Carolina municipalities from differentiating between fraternity and sorority houses that are occupied by organizations recognized by a university and fraternity and sorority houses that are occupied by groups not recognized by a university. Essentially, North Carolina municipalities can no longer base zoning decisions on university recognition.
One place to examine this law’s impact is the city of Greenville, which is home to Eastern Carolina University. Greenville provides fraternity and sorority houses with special use zoning permits, to allow for the large occupancy of these facilities. However, in the past, if the fraternity or sorority was disciplined by the university and lost its official recognition, then the city of Greenville would revoke the special use permit. As a result of this new change in the law, Greenville will no longer be able to revoke the special use permits in these instances.
Overall, this law seems to be a positive development for fraternities and sororities. There are at least two potential scenarios where Greek letter organizations could benefit from this legislation.
First, it is well documented that universities and inter/national organizations at times disagree over whether or not to suspend or shut down a chapter. Sometimes, this disagreement results in a situation where the chapter continues to function without university recognition. Of course there can be other causes for a fraternity or a sorority to exist at a university without official recognition. Perhaps the group may not want to comply with the university recognition requirements. The United States Supreme Court has accepted as common practice that “private groups, [such as] fraternities and sororities… commonly maintain a presence at universities without official school affiliation.” Christian Legal Society Chapter of the University of California v. Martinez, 130 S. Ct. 2971 (2010). For whatever the reason may be, this North Carolina law provides a layer of protection for fraternities and sororities that choose to operate without university recognition.
The second scenario in which fraternities and sororities could benefit from this legislation occurs when a house corporation desires to lease a fraternity or sorority facility to another group. If, for example, a chapter at a particular university is given a two-year suspension, then this North Carolina law will enable that group’s house corporation to lease the facility to a smaller organization that may be forming at a university and has not yet received official recognition. This could help ensure that a suspension does not cause a house corporation to forego several years of rent payments.