OAK house

The town of Blacksburg included this photo of Omega Alpha Kappa members at a house at 700 S. Main St. as part of a zoning violation notice.

An unsanctioned Virginia Tech fraternity will likely be booted from its Blacksburg house.

Omega Alpha Kappa is based at 700 S. Main St., according to a zoning violation given to the property’s owners Upland Associates July 3. Town officials conducted a walk-through of the property July 29 and determined the house was being used as the fraternity’s base of operations. The property is not zoned for a fraternity house use.

“The existing illegal non-conforming special housing use will stop and not be allowed,” Blacksburg Zoning Administrator Paul Patterson wrote in an email to The Roanoke Times. “All events associated with Special Housing, such as any use by a fraternity at this property (Chapter House, fraternity residence, meeting space or social event), is required to cease.”

The fraternity is one of eight that a Tech report advised students to avoid for their own safety, calling the organizations a threat to Greek life in Blacksburg.

Special housing is “housing for Greek organizations, service clubs, or other chartered groups bound by a common purpose or national organization,” according to the town’s letter to Upland Associates.

The letter says OAK is not allowed to advertise the address as the location of the organization, allow four members of the organization to reside there, conduct organizational meetings or administrative business at the property.

Patterson wrote in his email that Townside Property Management, which manages the property for Upland Associates, intends to make the house compliant with town code.

Marshall Frank, a Blacksburg attorney and owner of Upland Associates, declined an interview request but did say that the property wasn’t supposed to be used as a fraternity house and that any violations will be “corrected.”

Townside Property Management Property Manager Sheila Stuart only said this week that she’s “not aware of a fraternity there.”

Representatives for the fraternity did not return messages seeking comment.

The zoning issue at the OAK house is not widespread and other off-campus fraternities are unlikely to see similar violations, Patterson wrote in an email. The other properties used as special housing are considered grandfathered in because they were being used for special housing before the zoning ordinances went into effect.

Matt Hanratty, assistant to the town manager, said houses like OAK’s are “incompatible with the neighborhoods around them.”

“There are some fraternities that are very good neighbors and then there are some that aren’t,” he said.

In an ideal world, Hanratty said, all of Tech’s fraternities would be located on campus in the Oak Lane community. However, “that’s not realistic,” he said.

Instead the town has tried to work with Tech to support fraternities and make them better neighbors. He credited Blacksburg Police Chief Anthony Wilson with increasing dialogue between fraternities and officers through an adopt-a-cop program.

Many fraternity members are receptive to requests from the town and its residents, Hanratty said. For those that aren’t, their properties are issued citations, billed for town cleaning up their yards and put through the student conduct process when possible. Increasing dialogue and punitive measures have made a difference in the last decade or so, he said.

OAK, though, has had problems in the past. According to Hanratty, in the last two years the fraternity’s house has been cited for excess trash and debris on its property twice.

Omega Alpha Kappa is an unrecognized fraternity by the university. It was formed by members of Tech’s Kappa Delta Rho when that chapter was suspended and had its national charter revoked in 2016 for violating the university’s alcoholic beverage policy and failing to observe rules and regulations while on deferred suspension. It’s not part of a national organization.

In 2017, Tech’s Interfraternity and Pan-Hellenic councils, which represent recognized fraternities and sororities, released a statement condemning OAK. The councils accused the group of making female guests at fraternity social events uncomfortable, according to a statement published by Tech’s student newspaper The Collegiate Times.

“It is our recommendation that the greater Virginia Tech community joins our chapters in ceasing involvement with OAK,” the statement said.

In early July of this year, Virginia Tech officials advised its students to avoid joining or participating in events with the organization, and seven other fraternities.

Those groups, the report said, are a threat to Greek life at the university.

“The overall fraternity and sorority community at Virginia Tech experiences reputation erosion when the general public cannot distinguish between recognized and unrecognized fraternities, the latter often operating outside the bounds of generally agreed upon standards,” the report said.

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Robby Korth covers higher education, primarily Virginia Tech.

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