Saturday, January 26, 2013

Another Bed and Breakfast Controversy

Fairhope, Alabama

VIOLATING ZONING LAWS

Planning Director  Johnathan Smith told the Planning Commission that Emmas Bay House , 202 S. Mobile St. has been operating in violation of the zoning ordinance. Smith said the property was zoned B3A in 2004 to allow for a bed and breakfast business; but  other commercial  activities are being held there.

Smith: "Its now being used as a entertainment venue ... weddings, receptions, etc., ... that's not allowed in B3A." He said there are also parking and fire code issues (29 person maximum).

Smith said that if the applicant wanted to continue as an entertainment venue, the property would have to be re-zoned to B3B or B2. Even then, on site parking would require a variance (extra cars) from the Board of Adjustments; and the city council would have to approve using city parking areas (at the bluff/pier parks).  (click for video)

Another bed and breakfast -- Dorgan's Inn in Pt. Clear -- was cited last summer for violating county zoning ordinances by hosting similar activities.

OWNER SEEKS GUIDANCE

Attorney Danny Calhoun spoke  on behalf of owner Betty Rejczyk saying she didn't  intentionally set out to violate any ordinance -- and only learned of  the problem after neighbors complained. He called the Bay House a popular wedding destination that's doing a valuable service and contributing to the local economy.

Calhoun: "There are some challenges to deal with ... particularly the parking issue. She wants to continue if possible ... like your input ... how to proceed."

NEIGHBOR COMPLAINTS

A Mobile St. neighbor, Gene Labrato,  complained about the noise (music) generated by events there; but conceded that it technically did not violate the city's noise ordinance -- which he felt was defective because decibel meters police use are the unable to detect low bass sounds.

Labrato called it a "nuisance to the neighborhood": "You're trying to fit 10 pounds of activity in a 5 pound bag ... its an inappropriate location."

COMMISSION MOSTLY SKEPTICAL

Members of the Commission generally expressed skepticism about re-zoning the property over noise, parking and fire code issues -- and about setting a new zoning precedent in the neighborhood.

Commissioner Clark: "The bed and breakfast morphed into something else ... I have issues ... noise ... traffic ... setting a precedent (by rezoning)..."

Commissioner Mueller called it an "uphill battle"and worried about setting a precedent in the area by rezoning as well.

Commissioner Moore worried about parking and suggested a "different area" may be better for the business.

Mayor Kant said the size of the venue was his major concern -- but wasn't exactly sure how to address it.

"If you are going to go forward ... talk to council members and Board of Adjustments ... about how to rectify it."

(The city council is ultimately responsible for zoning change requests.)

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Shhhh...Don't make any noise in Fairhope...you'll wake the flowers...

Seriously folks - GET A LIFE.

Anonymous said...

I live a mile away from the Fairhope High School and I can hear the school band practicing in the afternoons, I can hear the live band playing on weekend nights at a local eatery, which is about 1/2 mile away, not to mention the fact that the Fire Department feels a need to run its sirens in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep, because the city decided to sneak in what was supposed to be a training station & turned it into a full blown fire house in a residential area. I have never called the school or eatery to complain. I'm sure the school band is surely breaking the city’s noise ordinance if I can hear it a mile away. Really, I agree with the other comment, GET A LIFE. People are trying to live their lives & have a little fun in what has become one messed up world. It's not like they are having parties there every night. Fairhope use to be a friendly place where everyone knew everyone else & you could count on your neighbors. Fairhope was the place that people traveled through and liked it so much they decided to move here. Now they have come here and turned it into the place they all ran away from. What’s wrong with this picture?
If the Planning Director, Mr. Smith wants something to work on, he should investigate why the city was a loud to take out the covert that drained the water flowing downhill to the creek so that they could put in their driveway to the fire station on Thompson Hall Rd & has now caused flooding to the residents on the other side of the road because they took out the only way for the water to escape & keep flowing to the creek. Or why at the city planning committee to rezone a housing project that we were told it was mandatory that the developer put in sidewalks in front of his houses, but yet there is no sidewalk anywhere, or why the city didn’t itself put sidewalks on Thompson Hall Rd. where fire trucks & volunteers are racing up and down the road in a residential area where lots of children live & play. Yet there are sidewalks on every road around & leading up to Thompson Hall, including in front of Wal-mart. I myself have been run off the road twice in my car by volunteers racing to get to the fire station, who never stopped or slowed down at a stop sign and made a wide turn into my lane. This is a safety issue but seems no concern to the city because Thompson Hall Rd is not a cookie cutter neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Wow, quite the comment there. Have to agree with you and first on "getting" a life. How about all the weddings on the bluff? Is that zoned for it? How about all these houses that have little cottages or garage apt that they rent out. Bet they aren't zoned for it.

Anonymous said...

The powers that be look the other way sometimes ...

Anonymous said...

I have stayed many times there and it is always quiet. If a few nights of the year someone can enjoy a beautiful view at their special wedding reception I think that's great. If there is a wedding at the home I'm sure out of town guests are staying at area hotels and spending money in fairhope. What an asset to an amazing town. Dont let one angry man spoil this.

Anonymous said...

Amen!

Anonymous said...

Please reserve room on the property next door for the Statue of King Kant. That way the bed and breakfast guest can sit at his feet and watch the sunset.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I can completely understand people complaining about noise after a point.

I actually sided with the Fly Creek rest. owners bc they had a permit/license for a restaurant that can host large functions. My reasoning was that living next to a school, fire station or a restaurant, I would expect some noise to come my way. My guess is that Emma's Bay House does not have a permit for large functions. There in lies the rub.

I have a bay house that I rent out. (Have a city permit to do so and I also pay business taxes for it.) I know it is not zoned for anything else. I don't allow my guests to do anything else.

But, if my neighbors decided to hold a loud party every weekend I'd be pissed.

Ever heard the phrase "Your right to swing your fist stops the second it hits my face?" I'm thinking that applies here.

And if the city of Fairhope doesn't fine the noise offenders with some consistency, I would think it was right for its citizens to complain and get action.

Anonymous said...

There are rules so people who are trying to break them can be held accountable. Not so good people can be punished for doing nothing wrong. You have been entrusted by the people with the ability to rezone areas so they can allow these types of events which are assets to the city and it's citizens.

There is a laundry list of positives that come out of having these events and stopping them won't do anything, but appease these select few. The noise isn't the real issue it's an individual or group of individuals who have no true vested interest other than personal.

We don't expect you to please everyone, but we are asking you to do what is right by the people of Fairhope and Point Clear. Why should you stop the local economy from receiving the revenue generated solely by these events. By not allowing these beautiful events to showcase and share with the world. The amazing views that are the bluffs throughout Fairhope and Point Clear. You are hindering tourism and the advertisement these events offer through photos, word of mouth and many other social media routes.


These events encourage our citizens to connect with and care about these locations which lead to their preservation. We have an obligation to preserve and maintain these beautiful properties! Restricting the citizens from enjoying and experiencing the beauty of these venues will not benefit anyone. Please make the best educated and considerate decision possible for the people of Fairhope and Point Clear.

Rezone these properties!!

Anonymous said...

The main problem there is lack of parking space