Home Politics City pool takes first step to completion, Airbnb discussion heats up at City Council meeting

City pool takes first step to completion, Airbnb discussion heats up at City Council meeting

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Athens City Council took its first concrete step to replace the Athens city pool on Monday by approving an ordinance for a “municipal pool option” instead of strictly an outdoor aquatic center.

This decision allows city administrators to now put a bid out, allowing $500,000 for a pool design.

Chris Fahl, D-3rd Ward, amended the original ordinance authorizing engineering services for an “outdoor municipal pool” to instead be for a “municipal pool option.” This amendment, passed unanimously, includes further discussion “to make sure that all options are looked at,” Fahl said.

“That way if we put out a request… maybe somebody out there has the perfect options for us,” Fahl said. “If we just say outdoor, that limits it.”

Mayor Steve Patterson voiced his continued concerns for an indoor pool. He brought in the example of Groveport, Ohio, and the 20 percent deficit the city’s indoor pool faces annually.  He also said Groveport has no competition with another aquatic center, unlike how Athen’s possible indoor city pool would rival the university’s pool.

“For a city of 23,000, to have two indoor aquatic facilities is unthinkable,” Patterson said. “Other cities our size are lucky if they have an indoor and outdoor; let alone the thought of two indoor pools.”

He further supported an outdoor pool by noting a survey from 70 mothers in Athens asking for an indoor or outdoor option; 61 percent favored an outdoor pool while 39 percent voted for an indoor option.

Karen Coschigano, a resident of Athens, urged the council to support the amendment to revising the wording of the ordinance to include other aquatic center options.

“I do use the OU pool, and its hours are not as open as you think,” Coschigano said. “The polling of mothers is just one group of constituents here. There are a lot more people to be polled.”

Timeliness of project completion is still a concern. Jennifer Cochran, D-At Large, noted that while there is proposal for a replacement, the question of whether the current pool will be available for this upcoming swim season is still up in the air.

Airbnb zoning was later brought up from citizens in opposition to the regulations and in favor of prohibiting room-sharing services. This sparked an extensive conversation despite this legislative item not being slated on the agenda for yesterday’s meeting.

Abe Alassaf, an Athens resident who recently dropped his bid for 94th District Representative, urged the council to find a starting place for regulation by looking at Columbus, Ohio, noting that they have no regulations on Airbnb.

“I understand no regulation is not possible,” Alassaf said. “We could compromise and it be a one-time licensing procedure to be able to run an Airbnb. Come to a compromise where I’m not getting a cease and desist order for $500 because I’m simply renting out a room to a couple of parents visiting their kids on a crazy weekend.”

Brandon Kerr, a student at Ohio University and a member of campus Libertarian group Students for Liberty, spoke to the council about how residents currently host guests across Athens for free. He said the nature of Airbnb and room sharing remains a transaction between the guest and host despite monetary exchange.

“This new market of sharing is quickly becoming ingrained in the American economy, and is simply here to stay–love it or hate it,” Kerr said.

Jack Stauffer, a local landlord, gave an alternate view, noting that residential zones were developed for quiet and personal residences and staying separate from business zones, which cultivate traffic, noise and parking problems, among other nuisances.

“[I want to] rally fellow east siders to maintain current quality of life, and I for one am willing to drag out my checkbook and hire attorneys and professionals as needed,” said Stauffer.

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