Multi-family structure destroyed in January

The owner of 925 Wolcott Ave., the Beacon boardinghouse destroyed in a January fire, is scheduled to appear in City Court on April 17 for failing to clear the debris.

Taylor Palmer, an attorney who represents Yeshia Berger, the property owner, said on Wednesday (April 5) that insurance payments were delayed and that cleanup would begin next week.

Berger had been converting the 16-unit structure to nine units when a former tenant, Brian P. Atkinson, 56, allegedly set fire to the house on Jan. 3.

Atkinson was scheduled to appear in court that same day for eviction proceedings filed by Berger. Instead, he walked to the Police Department and turned himself in, authorities said.

He was charged with third-degree arson, two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment and two counts of second-degree criminal mischief, all felonies. His next court date is Thursday (April 13).

Berger, who purchased the parcel in 2022, has asked the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals to weigh in on how the house will be rebuilt. The boardinghouse, which allowed tenants to rent rooms monthly, was a nonconforming use in a district zoned for single-family homes.

Berger has said he should be allowed to restore the structure as a multi-unit boardinghouse, in compliance with the construction permit he received from the Building Department last year.

Building Inspector Bruce Flower, however, argues that Beacon’s zoning code requires a structure that was more than 50 percent destroyed by fire to be rebuilt according to current zoning standards — in this case, as a single-family home.

Palmer said Wednesday that he expects to send a new request to the Zoning Board once he receives additional information from the Building Department.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Simms has covered Beacon for The Current since 2015. He studied journalism at Appalachian State University and has reported for newspapers in North Carolina and Maryland. Location: Beacon. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Beacon politics