Posted on 25 January 2012.
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A city board’s vote on Jan. 11 to expand Butler University’s parking plan effectively brought to a screeching halt a long-standing dispute between the university and the Phi Delta Theta Foundation.
Since 2009, the two parties have clashed over who controls 22 perpendicular parking spaces adjacent to Phi Delta Theta on Clarendon Road.
The Indianapolis Board of Public Works’ 4-1 vote on Resolution 1, 2012, gives the university control over those parking spaces, as well as spaces along a stretch of Sunset Avenue.
Butler’s position is that the new deal allows it to remain compliant with a decades-old legal agreement. The fraternity foundation says it has had years of “bad blood” with Butler and that the university is using the parking capacity issue as a means of control over the spaces.
At the root of the argument is a parking shortage on the Butler campus.
The Collegian previously reported in “Faculty, staff, students left with permit, no parking” (Aug. 31, 2011) that the university issued 3,997 parking permits last year but that there only are 2,585 designated spots on campus, leaving 1,412 permit-holding drivers without a spot.
Even though the number of parking spaces in question on Clarendon Road amounts to less than 1 percent of the university’s current capacity, the two parties have not been able to agree about who should have the right to park in them.
This particular stretch of spaces is located within the city right-of-way, meaning that the city of Indianapolis regulates all activities conducted on it, regardless of who owns it. Until the recent Board of Public Works vote, the parking spaces were considered open parking spaces for the community.
The Phi Delta Theta Foundation maintains that it owns the property but recognizes the city’s control of it. The foundation applied for an encroachment license in 2011 for control over the spaces, but it was eventually denied by the city.
As for Butler?
“We know we don’t own it,” Ben Hunter, chief of staff and director of public safety, said. “That’s between the city and the foundation.”
Hunter said the university has tried to resolve the issue.
“We’ve worked with their counsel, with their attorneys,” Hunter said. “We could not come to an agreement.”
Ronald Reed, chairman of the Phi Delta Theta Foundation, said that members of the foundation have met with Hunter in the past to resolve the issue.
“We would love to have the university support us,” Reed said. “I’m a reasonable man, but I’ve reached my limit.”
The Butler Tarkington Neighborhood Association comes from a more neutral spot.
“It’s not that we’d prefer [that Butler control them],” Jeremy Stewart, neighborhood association president, said. “Butler and Phi Delta Theta could work out an agreement, but they don’t seem to want to do that. The ultimate thing is that we just need them designated.”
Butler parking signs were installed along the road yesterday, per the city’s resolution.
The spaces will be designated as “Greek parking” spaces.
Compelling Reasons for Control
Butler has a “compelling” reason to control the property: a 1989 legal agreement between the university and the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association.
The Collegian reported in “Before Butler grows, officials will answer to neighborhood” (Sept. 7) that the agreement requires that the university enforce permit rules against parking on neighborhood streets and holds the university responsible for providing adequate parking for the Butler community, specifically mentioning Greek students.
It also gives the neighborhood association the right to remonstrate, or protest, new projects.
Without the Clarendon Road spaces in the parking plan, Hunter said the fear was that someone could protest against the university for going against the 1989 agreement.
Stewart said including the spaces in Butler’s parking plan “helps to further control the parking along campus.”
He also said it was a means of giving Butler the right to ticket non-Greek students who park there.
Phi Delta Theta has its reasons for wanting control over the spaces, too.
When its chapter was reinstated at Butler in 2009 after a seven-year hiatus, the foundation said it promised designated parking spots as a perk for prospective pledges.
“To say that parking is important to me is an understatement,” Reed said. “That’s the only way I could compete. It became a recruiting tool.”
While the fraternity wasn’t able to hold up that deal, Reed said he didn’t mind the spaces being open parking for the community because it allowed Phi Delta Theta alumni to park there without hassle.
In the Past
In 1997, Butler paid for the $61,319 renovation of the 22 adjacent spaces, as well as spaces in Phi Delta Theta’s back parking lot.
The staff report from the Department of Metropolitan Development said that the combined renovation would yield a total of 64 parking spaces for Butler students.
Reed said that Butler subsequently paid Phi Delta Theta $300 per space during the next few years that was to be applied against the cost of the project.
The Board of Public Works originally granted Butler permission to add city streets on its parking map in a 2010 resolution.
Hunter said it was a mutual decision between Phi Delta Theta and the university not to include Clarendon in the plan at that time.
“I felt it was in the best interest for the university to work with the organization on their concerns, so I did not include [it] at that time,” Hunter said of the decision.
Reed said he believes the university didn’t include the street in the plan originally because Butler knew the foundation would remonstrate against it.
Nathan Sheets, Board of Public Works member, argued for the resolution to pass at the July 14, 2010 meeting.
“The majority of the roads that are included in this proposal are essentially the property of the university,” the meeting minutes attributed Sheets as saying.
In 2011 the university withdrew its proposal to include Clarendon Road in its parking map from the consideration of the Board of Public Works.
Reed recently created an online petition against the updated parking plan.
It currently has garnered 55 signatures.
Reed said he plans to take that petition before the neighborhood association at its next meeting.