The Omicron chapter of Beta Theta Pi at the University has formally set a timeline for the installation of turf grass in the front yard following approval from the Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review. The fraternity plans for the installation to take place quickly, with a tentative completion date set for the end of September.
The request for the yard included the installation of artificial turf in the front yard, as well as the addition of brick piers to the pavers around the house and the front walk area — currently, the front yard is largely hard-packed dirt and has little greenery or landscaping.
Erik Richardson, president of Beta Theta Pi and fourth-year Commerce student, said that issues with the front yard had been developing for years, and both the fraternity and the alumni chapter agreed it was time for the yard to be improved.
“The yard has struggled to maintain grass for years, and it's gotten to a point where [the chapter and alumni] felt it appropriate to make a change,” Richardson said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “With new soft turf, the yard will be better for future Betas and their friends to enjoy.”
The Beta Theta Pi house is located in a historic district of Charlottesville, meaning any major renovations must be approved by the Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review. The process for gaining approval from the BAR begins with a request for a certificate of appropriateness from the board — a document that signals that the BAR approved a group’s request for renovations. The request must include detailed descriptions of proposed exterior changes to the property, photographs of the property and samples of proposed materials.
The installation of the turf was formally approved June 21, though Beta Theta Pi had originally intended to launch the plan to install turf over the summer — their first BAR decision was deferred. The installation is now slated to be completed by the end of September and will be performed by a local landscaping company called The Grow Company, Richardson said. As for funding, the project will be financed by the fraternity’s local alumni corporation.
This June approval did have some conditions. The BAR requires that the turf remain flat and its surface unaltered — with no paintings added.
BAR also members mentioned environmental concerns associated with turf — artificial turf can lead to the loss of the natural wildlife habitat as well as contaminated runoff and possible migration of synthetic materials. Thus, the BAR also requires the fraternity properly maintain the turf, including appropriate drainage.
Removal or replacement of the turf may be required upon determination by City of Charlottesville staff that the turf is in a state of disrepair or has deteriorated.
Beta Theta Pi’s location on Rugby road places it in the path of many students walking near Central Grounds and Arts Grounds. As a student with many classes in the nearby Arts Grounds, third-year College student Kiersten Freeman said it was important for the turf to be installed, especially given Beta Theta Pi’s central location.
“You want those organizations to reflect positively on the University,” Freeman said. “I think having a welcoming aspect [by installing the new turf] is very important in that regard.”
Beta Theta Pi hosts various events throughout the year for students to attend, including philanthropy events with sororities on Grounds. When completed, Richardson said the fraternity plans to enjoy the space and hopefully improve the experience for brothers and visitors alike.
“We expect to fully embrace the new improvement to the property by spending more time outside hosting friends and family and enjoying the space during the next year,” Richardson said.