A former Penn State fraternity house has another chance at life following an appeal decision Wednesday by the borough Rental Housing Revocation Appeal Board.
Owners of the property at 420 E. Prospect Ave. — the former home of the suspended Kappa Delta Rho fraternity — found themselves in a difficult position when the rental rights of the property were suspended by the borough, preventing potential future tenants from renting the building.
The property was marked as a nuisance property in the spring, Borough Manager Tom Fountaine said, and a notice was sent to the owners on May 14. According to the notice, the owners had a period of 15 days in which to appeal.
An appeal finally came through to the board in a letter dated June 12, Fountaine said. The borough didn’t find sufficient cause to waive the time limit and the extension was denied. The denial was appealed on June 25, leading to Wednesday’s board hearing.
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Attorney Ron McLaughlin, speaking on behalf of the property owners, requested relief from the board in the form of a nunc pro tunc appeal — a ruling applying retroactively to an earlier ruling. McLaughlin didn’t dispute the timeline or the borough’s actions, but rather requested that the board remand the matter back to the borough to determine the merit of the appeal and work out a consent agreement.
Co-owner Dusan Bratic testified that at the time of the notice, the property was in the middle of an unprecedented crisis, referring to the national attention brought through the alleged actions of the KDR fraternity. At that time, he said, he had received notice from the national KDR chapter that they would be taking over the situation and all notifications were to be directed toward them.
At the time the fraternity was suspended, he said, he and fellow co-owners were discussing who they would be able to rent the property to for the upcoming year. In the middle of everything, the notice simply slipped past him.
Co-owner Mike Buckingham echoed Bratic’s confusion, saying, “From the time the Facebook page was uncovered and publicized to late May when we finally heard from the university that the fraternity would be suspended for three years, we had no idea.”
Bratic assured the board that the ownership would be tougher on future tenants, making sure they know the consequences before pledging. He also assured other issues would be dealt with, like trash pickup and snow removal.
Following a brief discussion, the board voted unanimously to remand the appeal back to the borough.
“You mentioned the house has never been through this,” Chairman Larry Miles said to Bratic. “Neither has this town, and neither has this board. We’re not going to have a repetition of this.”
During the hearing, attorney Ronald Lucas, of Stevens and Lee in Harrisburg, requested the ability to be a party to the hearing, claiming his client, Greek Housing Services Inc., has a contract to lease the property from the owners.
The new lease would include up to 35 members of a different fraternity, he said. While Bratic confirmed a contract was in place, the board denied Lucas’ request.
When questioned, Lucas refused to reveal which fraternity had shown interest in the property.
Following the hearing, Fountaine said an administrative review of the case would be scheduled shortly.
“We’ll go through a review of the record and the case and make a determination if the suspension should be stayed or sustained,” he said, “with the possibility of a consent agreement to allow occupancy with conditions that would assure the property would be in compliance and would be a nuisance.”
In a separate hearing, the board unanimously approved upholding a consent agreement extension for the property located at 328 E. Fairmount Ave. — home to the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity. Following an arrest in August 2014 while the property was under an existing agreement, the borough determined that the agreement would be extended an additional six months, moving the expiration date from May to November.