Business owners say permit denial for hotel more about race than crime

by: Craig Lucie Updated:

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ATLANTA - Fulton County commissioners denied a permit for a hotel owner to open her business, and she said they are sending an awful message to business owners.

Helen Zaver spent $500,000 of her own money, and then took out a $950,000 loan to buy and rehab the newly-named Red Roof Inn.

Wednesday's vote in the commission chambers was to accept the Health Department's recommendation for the hotel to remain closed. It was unanimous and the permit was denied.

After the vote, Channel 2's Craig Lucie found Zaver in tears outside. She said it's not fair for commissioners to blame hotel owners for the crime along Fulton Industrial Boulevard.

"What they are doing is very much against hotels, and I'm an Asian owner. I can't believe what they are doing against Asians who own 40 percent on the hotels in the country," Zaver told Lucie.

Ricky Brown, who owns Next Step Staffing, which would help employ people at the hotel, thinks Zaver and other Asian hotel owners along Fulton Industrial Boulevard are being discriminated against.

"This has nothing but racist overtones, and I am ashamed to be a black man and a business owner in this city on this day," Brown said.

Commissioner William Edwards countered the racism allegations during the meeting.

"Some people come here to talk about they're with the Indian's Association. This ain't about Indians or  African-Americans. This is about revitalization of Fulton Industrial Boulevard," said Edwards.

Several committee members of the Fulton Industrial Community Improvement District stated since the county Health Department denied the hotel's permit over safety concerns and a high concentration of 911 calls, things have improved.

"The area is clean. Occasionally you will see one to two prostitutes walking around, but it's a completely different contrast on what it was prior," one member said.

Another member also took the podium before commissioners.

"The hotel has a negative impact on the legitimate businesses in the area, and it is hurting job creation," the Fulton Industrial CID member explained.

But Zaver said she would create jobs and one of her supporters asked county commissioners why strip clubs that are a few hundred yards away, are legitimate.

"Why are you halting the investment of improving that area yet keeping the strip clubs open?" one woman asked.

In closing, Edwards had a question for Zaver's supporters.

"Where were you when the prostitutes and pimps were running the street and people were renting the rooms by the day?" Williams asked.

Zaver is suing the county, and her attorney said the vote Wednesday will cost taxpayers in the end because the decision violates several laws.

Zaver's attorney told Lucie that the property cannot be considered the same property that it once was since it's under new ownership and renovations have been made.

Zaver told Lucie she may end up having to give the hotel back to the bank, and she doesn't know what she is going to do about the $20,000 Fulton County tax bill that she just received.



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