Bed and Breakfast request draws protest

Tia Lynn Ivey News

“There goes the neighborhood,” said one disgruntled citizen exiting the Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting Tuesday morning after the board painstakingly approved a conditional use for a bed and breakfast out of an historic home near the Wynbrooke subdivision in Madison.

Wynbrooke subdivision residents filled the conference room of the BOC to oppose a Bed and Breakfast application for 3071 Atlanta Highway in Madison, which is next to the subdivision.

Neighbors banned together to formulate a list of concerns over allowing a bed and breakfast including noise and light pollution, overcrowded parking, alcohol allowances, and future expansion.

Ellen Cowan, the property manager, agreed to a list of conditions for approval including limiting the number of occupants to a total of 10 (two adults per room), ensure parking remains behind the house, installing an evergreen vegetative “screen” to limit visibility to neighbors without removing any of the current vegetation between the house and adjacent properties.

But many of the neighbors were unsatisfied with the outcome.

“We don’t want to stop or interfere with progress, but we are concerned with any change that may take away from this pristine area we live in,” said Earl Faulkner, a resident in the Wynbrooke subdivision.

Tiffany Ellenberg worried most about the presence of alcohol at the new bed and breakfast.

“If there is alcohol, that is a whole nother level you are getting into,” said Ellenberg.

County Planner Tara Cooner noted that the bed and breakfast would not be authorized to serve alcohol to guests, but guests could bring their own.

Ellenberg also asked the BOC to forbid any future requests for rezoning to allow for more flexibility or density should the bed and breakfast become a success. That request did not make it into the BOC’s final list of approved conditions.

“We like things the way they are and we don’t want them to change,” said Ellenburg. “I don’t think anyone in Wynbrooke bought a house in our neighborhood to be backed up to a bed and breakfast.”

Commissioner Andy Ainslie was hesitant to approve the application and asked Cowan a series of questions about her intentions with the business.

“It’s just, once we allow this to become a bed and breakfast, there’s no coming back from that really, it will be a bed and breakfast forever,” said Ainslie.

But ultimately Ainslie voted to approve the request with the agreed upon conditions.

However, the BOC tabled Cowan’s second application to host various classes at the property.

“This is just like an event facility, isn’t it then?” said a frustrated Ainslie. “We spent all that time talking about event facilities, but even though we aren’t calling this an event facility, isn’t just the same? Why are we even doing this, this trying to regulate it like this? Doesn’t that just give people a pat on the back and encourage it?”

Cooner noted that in-home classes are very common and happening all over the county. She pointed out that by regulating the number of participants and type of classes allowed, the county can maintain some control to keep them from getting out of hand.

“If we don’t have any regulations, then we can’t do anything about it,” said Cooner.

Commissioner Ben Riden motioned to table the matter for further research.

“I think we just need more time to really think about this before we make a decision,” said Riden. The BOC unanimously tabled it.

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