STEUBENVILLE - A common pleas judge on Monday took an injunction request against an alleged illegal club under advisement and believes the club's owner should be given the opportunity to make application for zoning approval.
The city filed for an injunction against Derek Smith of 144 Wildon Ave., the owner of the building at 601-603 South St.
Costa Mastros, assistant city law director, said Smith is operating a business in the building known as Club 106.
Smith was questioned by Mastros about Smith's approval and denial for a zoning and occupancy permit. Smith said he initially applied to open a nightclub in the building. Smith said it currently is used as a "somewhat" club, where people are charged $10 to cover utility costs. He said people bring in their own alcohol and he supplies alcohol.
City Police have said there have been shootings around the club, including shots being fired in the club Saturday morning during which a man was grazed on the side of the head. There was a shooting in August beside the club that left two people with gunshot wounds.
Smith said he purchased the building on a land contract and is awaiting the deed to the property. He said he has done remodeling inside.
Smith, on cross-examination by his attorney, Gary Stern, said he asked for variances to get the zoning approval but was denied by the city.
Anthony Bodo of the city's zoning office said he was notified by police of an illegal club being operated in the building.
Bodo said Smith needed to submit building plans done by an architect as to the safety of the building to protect the public. Bodo said he explained to Smith the process for making an application but Smith hasn't done anything with the application since 2010.
Stern said Smith is allowed to open the building to the public as a social club. Bodo said he would have to check the zoning requirements.
Stern questioned Bodo about the city's South End strategic plan for economic development and the fact Smith's building is in the middle. Stern said the city is attempting to purchase property in the South End for small amounts of money.
"They (city) are picking on this guy," Stern said, who filed a counterclaim to the injunction claiming selective enforcement of the zoning code. He said if the city needs to cooperate with Smith because Smith may be able to get permission to open a social club.
Mastros said the zoning code is in place for the safety of the public. He said Smith needs to prove his building is safe, adding the city may be liable if something happens in the building and the city's didn't try to stop the club from operating.
Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. said he will take the injunction request under advisement until Smith gets "meaningful treatment" from the city.