Athens City Council members voted Monday evening to appoint five new members and two alternates to a city board that has been out of commission for more than a decade. 

Athens residents Brian Miller, Nicholas Bittner, Wesley Ratko, Joe Kraus and Nicholas Polsinelli have volunteered and been appointed to serve on the Athens Housing Board of Appeals. Thaden Brient and Mary Abel were appointed as alternates.

“This is a board (for which) provisions are already in existence, but we don’t currently have members serving on this board,” City Council member Sarah Grace said at the meeting Monday. “... Council would like to express their gratitude to these citizens for their willingness to serve on a board.”

The Housing Board of Appeals “considers and determines appeals whenever it is claimed that true intent and meaning of the city code or any of the regulations thereunder have been misconstrued or wrongly interpreted,” according to the city website.

City Council member and local lawyer Pat McGee said he is “truly delighted, that the board is being reinstituted” after having zero members for years.

“It’s my understanding that it’s been nonexistent for 15 or 20 years for all practical matters,” McGee said. “I wanted the students to be aware, in particular, that this board, as far as I understand, deals with the issues where the Athens Housing Code Enforcement agency has decided an issue.” Residents, including Ohio University students, now will have “the right to appeal a decision to this board, if they felt that the Code Enforcement had ruled against them on an important issue concerning their health or safety… 

“I think it’s important to have,” McGee said of the new Housing Board, though he did advise that in the future, care should be taken to ensure that members of the board are representative of the community. The ordinance regarding the Housing Board outlines certain requirements for who must serve on it.

Among those requirements, the legislation states that “one member should be a current landlord of residential property... and one member shall be a current tenant,” Council President Chris Knisely read at the meeting. “Remaining members must cross-sectionally represent the community at large,” she added.

“I would suggest,” McGee said, “that, perhaps in the future, the question be asked if you have any potential conflict.”

Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said, “There was considerable time put into identifying people who would be willing to serve on this,” adding that he thinks the city did succeed in selecting a representative group of board members in this case.

Ultimately, McGee thanked the city administration for reinstating the board. “At this point in time, I’m more interested in seeing a board that can handle the issues,” he said.

Grace pointed out that at the time, council members were only appointing members to the board, “not changing any of the requirements or governing rules for the board.”

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