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Local resident looking to appeal the Bellavino decision

Minutes after plans for an apartment building that will take the place of the wine-and-beer shop Bellavino, one local resident declared his intentions to appeal the decision to raze the “historic” building.

“I think that the planning commission made a terrible mistake,” said Ron Luce, executive director of the Athens County Historical Society.

At a meeting Wednesday the commission approved developer Ric Wasserman’s plans to knock down Bellavino, 22 W. Stimson Ave., and build a three-story apartment building.

“The only option I have is to file an appeal with the (Athens County) Court of Common Pleas,” Luce said.

Luce has contacted a lawyer and is discussing his option for appealing the decision.

He claims that the decision should not have been made in Wasserman’s favor because the commission misunderstood the law code.

According to the code, buildings in that section of Stimson Avenue can only have housing on the second floor and above. Luce claims the first-floor must be a “convenience, general or service business.”

Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl said the code is “silent” on what is required to be on the first floor.

“The decision created a major mess for the city. Any building with parking on the first floor can claim to be a business,” Luce said.

In addition to disagreeing with decision on a legal standpoint, he also does on a historical one.

“(The building) goes back to the Athens Brick Company, which opened in 1891 and was located in the area by Stimson,” Luce said, adding the building’s history could go extend further in the past, but the brick company is the farthest back it has been traced.

The company operated until the early 1900s and all of the brick buildings were torn down, except the one that now houses Bellavino, he said. The building was used as a mule barn for the company, he added.

If Luce decides to appeal the decision, he has 30 days to file a complaint with the court, said Athens City Prosecutor Lisa Eliason.

People appealing planning commission decisions is not uncommon, Eliason said, adding decisions have been overturned in the past.

“I may have to put up a huge bond if I lose, but I want to defend the citizens who should be defended by the city,” Luce said.


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