STEUBENVILLE - The Board of Zoning Appeals said Monday it will not require the owner of a South Street property to comply with off-street parking requirements for his twice-a-week social club.
But Law Director S. Gary Repella cautioned that "a number of other issues" must still be addressed by Club 106 owner Derek Smith, including obtaining occupancy and liquor permits.
"The city is being vigilant about it," he told board members. "We're just making sure the owner of this club goes through the procedure to make it legitimate. After this, they're going to have to get an occupancy permit. We've also contacted liquor control. There are a number of different issues that will be addressed, if you follow this over the next six or seven months, to see it resolved."
QUESTIONS FOR BOARD — Derek Smith shows members of the Steubenville zoning board a photo of another business located near his Club 106 that he said doesn’t meet the city’s off-street parking regulations, one of many he presented to them during Monday’s meeting. - Linda Harris
City police say the club, located at 601-603 South St., has been a trouble spot: In August, two people were shot beside the club, and last month a man was grazed in the head after shots were fired inside Club 106.
Two months ago, Assistant City Law Director Costa Mastros sought an injunction to shut Club 106 down, citing building code and zoning violations. Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzeze Jr., however, took the request under advisement, saying Smith must first be given an opportunity to comply with those requirements before he determines whether an injunction is warranted.
Monday's decision was the first of several approvals Smith will have to obtain to be in compliance with city regulations.
Prior to the vote, Smith's attorney, Gary Stern, told the board the club operates just two nights a week, typically starting at about 11 p.m. and closing before on-street parking is needed for other businesses. He also told the board requiring his client to provide paved off-street parking is unreasonable, and offered as evidence a number of photographs taken at other businesses in that area that do meet the same off-street parking requirement.
"It's unreasonable unless 51 percent of property owners comply," Stern said. "It's basically an industrial area. The owner operates as a social club at night, two nights a weeks ... when the streets are empty."
Stern said Smith "operates the club in a responsible way ... providing a service to people" in his community.
"He shouldn't be made to comply with parking regulations no one else in the area has to comply with," Stern insisted.
Late last month, Stern filed a counter-suit, claiming the city is selectively enforcing "vague technicalities" in zoning and building rules against his client. He's asking for damages in excess of $25,000 from the city and Anthony Bodo, the city's zoning officer.
During recent court proceedings, meanwhile, Smith said he'd purchased the property under a land contract, had done some remodeling inside and had applied for approvals to open a nightclub in the building.
He insisted it's not operating as a business, though he did tell the court he charges patrons $10 to cover utilities, supplies alcohol to his patrons and also allows them to bring their own.
During that same hearing, Bodo said the procedure for obtaining an occupancy permit had been explained to Smith in 2010 but he hadn't followed up.
In other business, the board also granted a variance to off-street parking requirements for Russell Hunt of Total Lawn Care, 175 Detmar Road.
The company is constructing a new office building, and Hunt told board members the road on which the offices will be situated is unimproved.
"I don't think it's a city road," he said, adding that other businesses in that particular area don't offer paved off-street parking, either.