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Homeowners hope to boot fraternity from neighborhood

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BALTIMORE -- Fed up with litter, loud music late at night, public urination and drunken behavior, homeowners in the neighborhood of a Johns Hopkins University fraternity hope a zoning technicality will help them get the frat boys out.

But the members of Phi Kappa Psi, which boasts New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as an alumni, have hired a lawyer to fight the residents.

The battle will take place before Baltimore's zoning board on April 17.

"The boys who run this place, some of them are very nice, respectable, considerate and highly productive people," Carl Hyman, president of the Tuscany-Canterbury Neighborhood Association, told The (Baltimore) Sun. "But there's no place on Earth where 30 18- to 20-year-old boys can go unsupervised and not get into trouble."

The fraternity's attorney, Herbert Burgunder III, claims they want to zone fun out of the residential district.

"Kids will be kids, and if they're breaking the law, you should call the police," Burgunder says. "The zoning board was not created to punish kids for bad behavior."

The residents believe the fraternity can be forced from the area because the men moved off site for more than a year.

The fraternity has owned the house for about 30 years. The nearly 7,000-square-foot, three-story home was built in 1920 as a boarding house, and typically sleeps about 25 men. It is assessed at more than $1 million.

In 2005 (the neighborhood and the fraternity disagree as to when), the fraternity moved out to fix various code violations ranging from drywall holes to empty fire extinguishers.

While they made plans, raised money and started work, a year passed -- when, according to city law, they lost the right to use the house as a fraternity.

The fraternity now needs the zoning board's permission to move back.

"You'll notice that the building is falling apart," Hyman said, pointing to the stucco mansion with broken windows and disheveled yard. "It doesn't promote the health, well-being or welfare of anything here."

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Information from: The (Baltimore) Sun, http://www.baltimoresun.com

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