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B&B changes get final approval

Deal, Brown named to commissions

Posted: January 13, 2011 4:50 p.m.
Updated: January 14, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Despite opposition from the chair of the Camden Historic Landmarks Commission, a nominee for the Camden Planning Commission (CPC), a member of the public and one councilman, Camden City Council passed second and final reading approving changes to the city’s bed and breakfast (B&B) ordinance.

The primary changes increase the number of allowable rooms from three to seven and allow B&B resident owners to use outbuildings as guest rooms.

The Camden Planning Commission (CPC) had originally recommended approval of an increase from three to five guest rooms per B&B, with no mention of outbuildings. State law, too, makes no direct mention of outbuildings but allows up to 10 rooms per B&B.

The vote came during council’s meeting Tuesday night, which saw three people speak out against the extent of the changes. The first to speak was Richard Trott, who described himself as a former B&B owner.

“I stay almost exclusively at B&Bs when I travel, but I feel the ordinance is a move in the wrong direction,” said Trott. “It fundamentally changes B&Bs in Camden. B&Bs are not like motels, hotels or even country inns. They allow visitors to experience the owner’s residence and the history of the house.”

Trott said while B&Bs have the right to make a profit, he wanted the ordinance to do more to protect the homes’ historic integrity.

“People should be able to drive up and not even know it’s a B&B there,” he said.

Next up was Westley Parks, who lives across from Bloomsbury Inn on Lyttleton Street, and was a nominee later in the evening for a spot on the CPC.

Parks said he is pro-business and pro-B&B. He followed the CPC’s proposal and spoke with City Planner Shawn Putnam. He said he was “shocked” when he heard that council approved amendments in December increasing the number of rooms to seven instead of five and would allow the use of outbuildings.

“I had another conversation with Shawn,” said Parks. “I believe each room holds up to three people, so that would be 21 guests.”

Parks said he was also concerned that increasing the number of rooms would increase the number of cars on Lyttleton Street and at Bloomsbury, specifically. He said Bloomsbury uses a shared driveway that is also a cut-through from Lyttleton Street.

“It’s a safety issue,” he said.

Parks’ concerns over outbuildings spoke mainly to how they would be controlled and where they would be placed on properties with residential R-15 zoning. Lots in R-15 zones can only be up to 15,000 square feet in size.

“I think we also need to control how many B&Bs there are in one neighborhood,” he said.

The angriest words came from Laurie Parks, who recently took over as chair of the Camden Historic Landmarks Commission (CHLC).

“If I wanted to live across from a hotel, I would have chosen to live somewhere else,” she said, and then proceeded to accuse city administrators, elected officials and others of “(telling) those in opposition to these changes not to come to meetings.”

A month ago, Councilman X. Willard Polk voted against the B&B changes. At the time, he expressed concerns over both the number of rooms being allowed and the use of outbuildings. As he had at a Jan. 6 work session, Polk Tuesday mentioned a letter written by local attorney Ed Royall that pointed to the possibility that outbuilding usage would be in violation of state law. He suggested the S.C. Attorney General’s opinion be sought and made a motion to table the matter until that opinion was published.

“Also, it would afford B&B owners a If I domeasure of protection from investing their capital into those outbuildings and then learning in the future that they were counter to state law,” said Polk.

No one seconded his motion.

Instead, Mayor Jeffrey Graham turned to City Attorney Charles Cushman who explained that while Royall correctly pointed to a pertinent section of state law, he was quoting from the definitions listed in the law, not at a requirement of the law itself.

“Our code is not in conflict with state code,” Cushman advised council.

Councilman Pat Partin said while he appreciated people coming forward with their opinions, he agreed with the way council has been encouraging visitors to come to Camden, stay in Camden and shop downtown. He said he agrees with visions put forth by the Duany Plater-Zyberk (DPZ) consulting firm, including the Town Green.

“Personally … we used to have a vibrant downtown with grocery stores and other shops,” said Partin. “The state statute says we can have up to 10 (guest rooms per B&B), and we’re below that.”

Partin also noted that existing or future B&Bs in areas of the city under the CHLC’s purview would have to come to the commission to obtain certificates of appropriateness before making any changes or new construction.

“I don’t see a concern. I think we need to be business friendly,” said Partin.

Councilman Walter Long agreed, saying council took the time to have a lot of discussion on the matter.

“Economically, I don’t think you’re going to see a demand for new outbuildings as guest rooms,” said Long. “For me, existing buildings are (OK). I’m sorry Mrs. Parks doesn’t agree, but I think we’ve done everything we can.”

Polk emphasized that he is not anti-B&B or anti-business.

“I like B&B’s … I think they’re vital,” he said.

Graham, referring to a thick binder in front of him, said council has been looking at the entire city code and not just the B&B ordinance in isolation.

“Right now, we’re working on changes to the B&B ordinance, but the codes dealing with residential zoning still apply,” the mayor said. “This actually places additional burdens on one specific type: B&Bs. R-15, R-10 and R-6 zoning limit the number of outbuildings to three. Our intent is to allow those to be used, not to go above it. Changing one ordinance does not change the entire dynamic of R-15 zoning.”

Graham also wanted to make it clear that Putnam has been doing the job he was given to do. Specifically, he said Putnam has been bringing information to council.

“These changes are on council,” Graham said, not Putnam.

At that point, the vote was called and the revised B&B ordinance was approved, 4-1, with Polk voting against.

New commissioners

Loosely tied to the B&B changes were the considerations of two appointments to two city commissions. Due to the recent departures of Julie and Jim McIntyre, council needed to fill one seat each on the planning and historic landmarks commissions.

For the first time in recent memory, there were two nominees for a commission seat. Both Westley Parks and Johnny Deal applied to take over from Julie McIntyre on the CPC. Polk nominated Parks, but no one seconded the motion.

Partin then nominated Deal.

Long said he was glad to have people interested in serving on commissions and thanked Parks for his application and willingness to serve. Councilwoman Alfred Mae Drakeford addressed Parks, saying his application would be kept on file if another opening on the CPC came up in the future.

Partin said his only concern with Parks was that his wife was heading up the CHLC.

“The two commissions have a close relationship and I think there’s too much chance for conflict,” said Partin.

Deal’s nomination was approved 4-1, with Polk voting against.

Next, a motion was made to approve the only nominee for the CHLC: Bloomsbury owner Bruce Brown. His nomination was approved unanimously.

In other business, council unanimously passed:

• first reading of an ordinance repealing the city’s procurement code, which will be replaced with a new administrative policy;

• a resolution formally adopting the city’s employee hiring policy and procedures; and

• a resolution adopting the Municipal Association of South Carolina’s 2011-2012 legislative agenda.

Council will next meet in work session at 2:30 p.m. Jan. 20; its next regular meeting will be at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 25. All meetings are open to the public and are held on the second floor of Camden City Hall, 1000 Lyttleton St.

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