The City of Aiken Board of Zoning Appeals denied a variance request for the removal of several dozen trees that has created a rift between a neighborhood and a local restaurant owner.

The vote was 4 to 1 to deny a request made by Nikolaos Chionakis, owner of 510, 514 and 516 Silver Bluff Road which includes Zorba's restaurant, which would have allowed him to remove approximately 62 trees from an interior parcel located behind those properties. Henry Krippner voted in opposition of the motion – Brendan Doherty and Jason Price were not present at the Tuesday night meeting.

This item was tabled by the Board last month after a long, tense discussion between the applicant and residents in hopes to come up with a plan to better handle the situation.

Chionakis said he made the request because trees around the property have fallen down over the years, and he's concerned about the safety of his customers and tenants of several mobile homes he's renting out behind his restaurant.

Residents living behind Chionakis' property along Oriole Street and Wren Place were rattled by the trees that have already been chopped down, many stating that they can now see Silver Bluff Road from their back yards. Those residents expressed concern about their property values and safety.

Resident Gregory MacDougall said that he will have to put several thousand dollars into landscaping behind his home in efforts to make his backyard enjoyable again.

Though most of Chionakis property is in the County, 4.16 acres that he purchased in December is in the City limits. Underbrush and small trees were already recently removed by the property owner which was said by the City to be permissible.

As of Jan. 31, horticulturist Tom Rapp only approved approximately 24 of the 62 trees for removal because of decay. The rest of the trees did not show signs of disease.

The reason a variance request had to be made was because the City's zoning ordinance states that “the natural landscape, including all existing trees, shall be preserved wherever possible.”