By Adam Smith
A decision Tuesday by the Athens Planning Commission could pave the way for bed and breakfast establishments to do business from older homes.
The commission voted to amend a zoning table that would allow bed and breakfast establishments to operate in historic districts with special exception approval. The measure was approved after a public meeting at which no one offered comment.
The amendment would allow bed and breakfasts in the R-1-2 and R-2-1 districts, both of which are classified as medium-density residential. Two of the city’s historic districts — Houston and Beaty — are located within those. Though no such operations exist in the city, the businesses are currently required to operate in an R-3, or high-density residential district.
“From what we have seen in other communities, historic properties do attract that type of venture,” said City Planner Mac Martin.
The amendment must be approved by the Athens City Council before taking effect. Martin said the commission requested the council pass a resolution to set a May 25 public hearing to hear comments on the matter.
Also Tuesday, the commission heard from Jay Spencer who appealed a site plan denial to place an additional building on property occupied by the Athens eBay Club. Spencer has appeared before the commission previously to request his property on West Elm Street be rezoned from agricultural to B-2, or business district.
The commission has stated that because the eBay club is a for-profit club, it is not in conformity with the agricultural zone. However, the club was in existence prior to the current zoning ordinance, so it may stay in operation, but is not permitted to expand.
After Spencer’s request was denied on April 19 of last year, the Athens City Council also denied the request at a July meeting.
On Tuesday, the commission approved the addition of a new principal building, which Martin said would be used for the storage of agricultural equipment like tractors and trailers.
The commission, however, put several conditions on the request, including the requirement of fencing, a gate and signage on the gate stating the building and the property beyond the fence will not be used by Athens eBay Club. It was also granted with the condition that the building won’t be an extension of the non-conforming use and that all storage will be indoor storage.
Martin said city departments will review the site plans to ensure it meets those conditions.
Elsewhere, the commission passed a resolution to grant conditional use approval to Athens State University to use 431 and 433 East Pryor St. and 413, 415, 417 and 421 Hargrove St., for low-intensity institutional use.
Martin said the university acquired the property, which is in the vicinity of the campus, in 2008 to plan for a possible expansion. The properties will now temporarily house departments being affected by ongoing renovations at the school.
In other business, the commission:
• Granted preliminary and final approval for the Health Care Authority of Athens and Limestone County to re-subdivide lots two and three of Athens-Limestone Medical Village;
• Approved a certificate to subdivide property for First National Bank of Pulaski, located off Jefferson and South streets;
• Voted to recommend the Athens City Council rezone property on Mooresville Road at Johnson’s French Mill Estate from R-1 (residential) to B-2 (business). The request was made by Shewatha Gusler, Calliesha Patterson and Jacky Patterson; and
• Voted to recommend the Athens City council rezone property on Mooresville Road from AG (agricultural) to B-2 (business). The request was made by Charles and Dean Baucom.
The Planning Commission will hold a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. April 26 to consider a conditional use application from Alabama Green Lubricants, LLC, which seeks to open an oil refinery in Athens. The meeting will be held at the Athens Police Department on Hobbs Street.