Athens Board Of Zoning Appeals Says Parking Not A Business

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The Athens Board of Zoning Appeals last night acknowledged a new policy that residences on the second story of business district buildings can not claim their first-floor parking as a business.

The decision comes a day after ownership of the Bella Vino building on Stimson Avenue changed hands.  Businessman Ric Wasserman has said he plans to raze the building and erect a student housing complex with parking on the main level of the building.  
The plans have caused a storm of questions as some residents argue the city's codes do not allow for such re-development. Athens County Historical Society Director Ron Luce says the board's decision is what he's been fighting for all along.
“It at least sends the message that we do have codes and they do mean certain things and we can’t distort them and that’s a step forward,” said Luce.
Zoning Appeals committee member Joan Kraynanski says the board came to the decision while talking about the kinds of services that a business district is intended to provide. “Parking a car for a resident that’s living on the second floor…my interpretation is that it’s not a business,” Kraynanski said.
But Luce acknowledges the policy probably won't save the historic building that currently houses Bella Vino. Luce says he still urges Wasserman to save the building that was once part of Athens' brick making industry.
“I don’t want to see our history lost. Once those buildings are torn down, they’re gone forever,” Luce said. “There’s no putting them back. You can put a facsimile up but it’s not the same.”
The building still stands and Luce says he hopes for a change in Wasserman's plans.
“I would plead with Mr. Wasserman not to destroy the building,” Luce said. “I would hope that he would see that there was a legitimacy to the points that were being made and see that the building is worth saving and could be used effectively.”
The effect of the board's decision on Wasserman's re-development project is not immediately clear. Athens Planning Commission members did approve site plans for the complex in mid-January, after grappling with the parking situation.