City Council addresses greek housing rental codes


Jonathan Krueger/Iowa State Daily

City Council member Matthew Goodman speaks at the City Council meeting on Jan. 28 at City Hall.

Emelie Knobloch

The Ames City Council passed the first ordinance exempting fraternities and sororities from the Rental Housing Code.

Before this ordinance, the rental housing code said that fraternities and sororities were required to complete inspections annually and share bathrooms with no more than eight people.

The fraternities and sororities have never been inspected for Rental Housing Code compliance before. 

“There are houses that have let nonmembers rent,” councilman Peter Orazem said. “There should be something that switches these houses back over to the landlord-tenant relationship.”

Fraternities and sororities were an exemption from the bathroom privacy section of the Rental Housing Code.

“It is possible to say that nonmember rental can put them back in the Rental Housing Code,” Judy Parks, city attorney, said.

According to the council action form, the fraternities and sororities participate in the management of their facilities and therefore can make sure that their own safety is protected.

“This is all stated very vaguely,” councilwoman Amber Corrieri said. “We need to have a definition of a fraternity and sorority in here.”

The council action form says a case can be made that greek housing should be added to the list of uses that are exempt from the Rental Housing Code.

The list of uses that exempt from the Rental Housing Code include hotels, motels, university housing and state-licensed health and custodial facilities.

“We are trying to stay away from the details tonight,” councilman Matthew Goodman said. “Tonight we may put the nonmember-member conversation off to the future.”

According to the council form, if the greek housing inspections were re-initiated, there may be problems involving access windows, restroom occupancy and S traps. S traps are common plumbing defects found in older houses.

If fraternities and sororities were to ever be inspected for Rental Housing Code compliance, it is probable that this type of housing would cease because of cost, according to the council action form.

The exemption of sororities and fraternities from the Rental Housing Code does not exempt sororities and fraternities from the zoning ordinance.

“Although we are proposing to exempt them from the rental housing code, it does not solve the parking dilemma,” Seana Perkins, the building official of the inspection division of the fire department, said.

The parking requirements for the fraternities and sororities are found in the zoning ordinance.

Previous discussions with fraternity and sorority members identified problems with additions or redevelopment of the existing houses with their current parking.

According to the council action form, at least three fraternities have expressed their intention to either expand or replace their building in the near future to the planning staff.

Other issues brought to City Council’s attention include Charlie Yoke’s bar in Campustown. 

Charlie Yoke’s has been issued a six-month renewed liquor license after going through the Ames Police Department liquor license renewal process.

“If we give Charlie Yoke’s a pass, what does that say to everyone?” councilman Tim Gartin said.

Charlie Yoke’s has been issued 33 citations during the 12-month renewal period. They have also made 50 calls for service during this period.

“I have owned the bar for a year-and-a-half,” Jason Crimmins, owner of Charlie Yoke’s, said. “I bought a slow bar and it got busy.”