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Beta Theta Pi Cited For Opening House To Alumni To Stay In On Football Weekends

by Geoff Rushton

The alumni corporation for the now defunct Penn State chapter of Beta Theta Pi was met with some criticism when it opened the house, where Timothy Piazza suffered fatal injuries, for fraternity alumni to pay to stay in for football weekends this season.

Now it’s being met with a fine.

Centre Region Code Agency filed two citations against the Alpha Upsilon Chapter of Beta Theta Pi for using the house without proper permits.

After Penn State permanently revoked the fraternity’s recognition, former members were evicted by the alumni corporation, which owns the house at 220 N. Burrowes Rd., in March. It appeared to remain vacant until the weekend of Sept. 9, when alumni were invited to stay at the house and take part in meals and gatherings on weekends of Penn State home football games. Accommodations ranged from $50 to $350 to stay in the house, with the money to be used for the fraternity’s legal costs stemming from Piazza’s death.

They weren’t allowed to do that without going through official channels first, according to the citations, which were filed Wednesday. The violations are dated Sept. 16, the day of the Penn State-Georgia State game.

One citation is for an unauthorized change of use. The chapter “changed the occupancy from a non-transient multi-family residential structure to a transient without obtaining the required permit,” according to the citation.

State College Borough and Pennsylvania code require an owner who intends to change the typer of occupancy of a building to apply for and obtain a permit to do so, CRCA wrote in the citation.

The other citation says the house didn’t have a required fire safety license for the changed use. A property owner cannot “operate a place as a hotel or motel or rent such space until such a person or corporation has been issued a fire safety program license.” The property owner is required to obtain the license prior to occupancy, and if the use of the space changes the local code official is to be notified within writing within five days so a compliance inspection can be conducted prior to occupancy.

The fines for the citations total $785, or $392.50 each.

When it first became known earlier in September that the house was being opened to fraternity alumni for their “exclusive use,” Tom Kline, the attorney for Piazza’s family, told the Associated Press the decision was “disgraceful and disrespectful.”

Piazza died on Feb. 4 from brain injuries and massive internal bleeding suffered when he fell multiple times during an alcohol-fueled pledge initiation event the night of Feb. 2 and early morning of Feb. 3. The Alpha Upsilon Chapter and multiple members were charged with a variety of crimes stemming from the death, though some were dismissed after a preliminary hearing in the summer.

Since Penn State revoked its recognition and the national Beta Theta Pi fraternity shuttered the chapter, the future of the house has remained in limbo. Though surrounded by Penn State’s University Park campus, the lot is privately owned and is located in State College Borough’s University Planning District, which would permit a list of commercial and residential uses.

The alumni board, meanwhile is being sued by fraternity alum Donald Abbey, who says he is owed millions for loans he made to renovate and operate the house. Abbey claims an agreement stated he would be repaid the money if the chapter ceased to be a chapter of the general fraternity, if the house was used for another purpose, or if the chapter violated Beta Theta Pi’s “Men of Honor” principle.

The fraternity says the money from Abbey was a gift, not a loan and that he made unilateral decisions to spend millions on refurbishing the house without approval. Alpha Upsilon also says that the house is its only significant asset and that essentially the lawsuit is for ownership of the property.

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