Athens Cottage

The Athens Cottage, one of few officially licensed bed and breakfasts in Athens, can be found off Richland Avenue on the city's south side.

Athens City Council is expected to hold a public hearing Monday (Nov. 23) at 7 p.m. to discuss changes recommended by the City Planning Commission to sections of city code regulating bed and breakfast/vacation rentals.

According to Athens City Code, “bed and breakfast” establishments with the renting of rooms on a day-to-day basis in the city are only permitted at residences in R-3 zones that front a street officially designated a state or federal highway, or on Richland Avenue, East State Street, West Union Street or Columbus road. Any other bed-and-breakfast establishments must get a “conditional use permit” from the city Board of Zoning Appeals.

Despite those regulations, there are about 20 residences listed on rental-lodging website and app Airbnb as vacation rentals or bed-and-breakfasts within the city limits. John Paszke, code enforcement director, has told The NEWS in recent months that his office has sent out warnings to some residences listed as vacation rentals on the Airbnb website warning them of their violation of city code.

City Law Director Lisa Eliason also has provided The NEWS with a copy of an official city letter sent two years ago, which warned the owner of a home on Maplewood Drive of a code enforcement office cease-and-desist order against renting out rooms of the house. According to the letter, violation of the city’s bed-and-breakfast zoning code at the time could have resulted in a fine of $500 or more.

Abe Alassaf, an Athens resident whose home is listed on Airbnb, has balked at the city’s regulations. Alassaf is running for representative of the Ohio 94th Congressional District this election cycle as a Republican.

“This Airbnb ‘red-tape’ is another example of how the city of Athens government zealously wants to tax and control anything within their reach,” Alassaf said. “I, like other property owners, already pay a fair share in property and income taxes. Airbnb and the sharing economy rely on dependable peer-to-peer reviews for the whole world to see.”

The proposed new zoning provision for bed-and-breakfasts on tap for discussion during Monday's meeting appears to relax restrictions on where somebody can have a bed-and breakfast/vacation rental within the city of Athens. For example, the proposed code changes allow for bed-and-breakfasts in B-1, B-2 and B2-D business zones, and codify B&Bs as “an owner-occupied dwelling unit with no more than three guest rooms, providing lodging with breakfast to paying transient guests, with a maximum stay of no more than 30 days. A rental permit and one parking space per guest room are required.”

There are currently only two officially licensed B&Bs within the city limits, one on Richland Avenue and another on Stimson Avenue, which has a temporary “conditional use” permit from the Board of Zoning Appeals. That permit is set to expire at the end of this year.

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