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B&B changes pass first round, 4-1

Number of rooms would increase to 7, include outbuildings

Posted: December 16, 2010 5:22 p.m.
Updated: December 17, 2010 5:00 a.m.

Camden tourists may have greater opportunities to stay at a bed and breakfast, or B&B, thanks to a change in a proposed ordinance Camden City Council took up Tuesday night.

On a 4-1 vote, council passed first reading of an ordinance that would amend the city’s B&B rules. As originally forwarded to council by the Camden Planning Commission (CPC), the proposal included increasing the number of rooms each B&B is allowed to offer to guests from three to five and restricted those five rooms to the primary residence.

But what council passed Tuesday night would go further than that. Thanks to successful motions by Camden Mayor Jeffrey Graham, and if passed on second reading in January, B&Bs in the city would be able to offer up to seven rooms to guests instead of five. In addition, Graham’s first motion would allow any of those seven guest accommodations to be housed in outbuildings as long as they were used as single rooms.

Graham’s second motion was to remove a requirement that residences could not be occupied as B&Bs until they had shown proof of insurance.

Both of Graham’s motions to amend the proposed ordinance passed 4-1, with newly elected Councilman Willard Polk objecting in both instances.

“I think five rooms (are) sufficient,” Polk said following Graham’s first motion.

Polk also said he was concerned that allowing outbuildings to be used as B&B guest rooms would encourage unwanted construction in the city’s historic district.

Councilman Pat Partin, however, saw things differently.

“I think of the Court Inn. I grew up in the groundskeeper’s house,” Partin said of one of the last of Camden’s old resort hotels. “I saw it fall apart. Maybe this will be a way to keep these historic homes and gardens. I believe seven is the appropriate number.”

Councilwoman Alfred Mae Drakeford pointed out the state code allows for up to 10 guest rooms in each B&B. Although she did not make a motion to increase Camden’s limit to that standard, she expressed concern that the CPC and council would have to revisit the issue again in the future.

Graham told Polk that new construction cannot be limited in a B&B ordinance, but suggested that -- due to costs and other zoning limitations -- it would be unlikely for most Camden homeowners to be able to build many additional outbuildings for guests.

Polk said he was thinking of historic Kamschatka in the Kirkwood Neighborhood Historic District and that increasing the number of allowed rooms beyond five would be an inappropriate use to its historic character.

Regarding the proof of insurance issue, Graham said he was making the motion because the city does not require such proof of any other business.

“I’m not certain why you’re recommending that when it’s no great burden on the property owner,” countered Polk.

In response to a question on the matter from Councilman Walter Long, City Attorney Charles Cushman said removing the proof of insurance requirement was designed to unburden city staff, not property owners.

“They must still have insurance, though,” Cushman reminded council.

After both of Graham’s amendments passed, Polk made a motion of his own. The proposed ordinance includes a provision where neighboring property owners are notified of B&B applications. Polk said he wanted those same property owners to be allowed to make public comment on a B&B application.

No one seconded the motion.

At that point, Graham called for a vote on the full motion; Polk was the lone “no” vote.

Ahead of the vote, seven people spoke in favor of the revised ordinance including: Bruce and Katherine Brown, owners of Bloomsbury Inn; Ponza Vaughn, who offers one room at her home as B&B quarters; restaurant owners Jonathan Bazinet and Candy van Nort; and business owner Edward Lloyd.

Also speaking during the public forum was Rock Hill resident Jayne Scarborough, the executive director of the Olde English District, a tourism region that includes Kershaw County.

“Bed and breakfasts are a vital part of the community, especially where tourism is concerned,” said Scarborough. “Tourists will stay in towns with B&Bs rather than go to the next largest town. They stay longer and spend more money in the community.”

Scarborough said Camden was “perfect” for B&Bs.

“They preserve historic homes while contributing to the economy, but there aren’t enough rooms to meet demand,” she said.

Unanimous votes came on other business Tuesday night, including on a set of bids to a $165,564 energy efficiency and conservation grant.

Bid awards were granted to J.P. Smith Builders of Camden ($30,360) for installing new windows at Camden City Hall and adjoining Fire Station No. 1 and to install insulation in the city hall attic; Powers & Gregory of Lugoff ($44,040) to replace seven HVAC units at city hall and the fire station, Camden Police Department and Fire Station No. 2 with 15 smaller, more efficient units; and Kalish Electric Co. of Sumter ($90,044) to replace approximately 550 old lights with energy efficient fixtures for city hall, both fire stations, police department and Camden’s water plant.

Graham noted that local contractors had won the bids.

“This will put people to work,” he said.

Partin, who was elected mayor pro tem for the coming year, commended both staff and council in obtaining the energy efficient grant.

“When I came (on council) 10 years ago, it was so dim in here, you could hardly read the ordinances,” said Partin. “We now have a grant writer who is helping us get grants that allow us to improve our town without taxes.”

Council also voted unanimously to formally award bids to Southeast Pipe Survey Inc. ($149,797) for sewer line rehabilitation and Lee Electrical Construction Inc. ($149, 969) for electrical underground work in conjunction with the city’s Village Renaissance Community Development Block Grant project.

Also Tuesday, council:

• voted unanimously on second reading to grant a limited, non-exclusive franchise to Fairfield Electric Cooperative to operate in the city with a fee set at 5 percent of the cooperative’s total gross sales;

• awarded a façade grant in the amount of $679.05 to cover half the costs of upgrades to the rear façade of 1001 Market St.;

• awarded a second façade grant to 1001 Market St. for $1,040 for front façade work; and

• voted to cancel its Dec. 28 meeting and the work session it would have held Dec. 23.

Council was also set to vote on appointing Karen Eckford to the Camden Planning Commission to fill the unexpired term vacated by Julie McIntyre. However, according to a letter Mayor Graham read to council and the public, Eckford withdrew her nomination. She currently sits on the county’s planning commission.

In the letter, Eckford indicated she had applied for McIntyre’s seat as a means to foster cooperation between the two planning commissions as well as the city and county. Eckford said she recently learned she could not serve on both commissions simultaneously and decided to honor her commitment to the county.

Council will next meet at 2:30 p.m. Jan. 6; its next regular meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 11. All meetings are held on the second floor of Camden City Hall, 1000 Lyttleton St., and are open to the public.

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