Planners approve B&B

Published 10:36 pm Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Suffolk Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit Tuesday to allow a bed and breakfast to operate on Pinner Street and hold outdoor events for up to 40 people.

Following a public hearing Feb. 19, the commission delayed a decision to allow time for city staff and property owners Allyn and Kristen Brown to work out how the property at 231 Pinner St. could be used and how many people they would be allowed to accommodate at events.

Following those discussions, city staff recommended approving the bed and breakfast with two guest rooms, but with the conditions that all events take place indoors, and that there be no more than 20 people.

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But after this Tuesday’s discussion among the commissioners, they voted 7-1 in favor of the bed and breakfast application, and to allow it to host indoor and outdoor events for up to 40 people. Johnnie Edwards was the lone commissioner to vote no.

The Browns said in their application that they want to use the property for indoor and outdoor gatherings such as weddings, rehearsal dinners, family reunions and holiday celebrations.

They said they were able to work out an agreement with First Baptist Church for the free use of 10 of its parking spaces during the week and 20 on weekends, as long as those spaces are cleared by 6 a.m. on Sundays. In exchange, the Browns agreed to mow grass and trim trees on the back of the church property. The Browns’ property has 10 parking spaces available.

“We definitely were disappointed to the decision to only have 20 people, so we did pursue additional parking at First Baptist (Church),” Allyn Brown said.

The house has a photography studio still in use, Allyn Brown said, but that business has declined over time.

“It has very much dwindled, and that’s why we looked at other means of revenue,” Allyn Brown said.

The Browns presented signatures from nearby property owners supporting the use of the outdoor portions of the property. They said the use of ambient music would comply with the noise ordinance and not be heard more than 50 feet from its source.

The letter also said that all activities would end by 10 p.m. on weekends and 9 p.m. on weekdays.

“We do not object to the use of these spaces for small events and intimate gatherings limited to a maximum of 20 guests,” the letter states. Eleven people signed below the letter — five of those people living on Pinner Street, three on Oakdale Terrace, two from Grace Street and one from Finney Avenue.

Commissioner Mills Staylor expressed concern for the Browns and how they would be able to operate their business with the limits imposed in the conditional use permit. He said the city needs to help people who are maintaining the older, larger homes in the city.

“I think we get in our own way in placing restrictions on some things that keep them from being able to sustain themselves,” Staylor said.

Allyn Brown said limiting events at the bed and breakfast to just 20 people would make it hard for them to attract business.

“It would definitely cut our business by about three-fourths,” Allyn Brown said.

The operating hours for indoor and outdoor events on the property would be Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. until midnight.

The matter will now be heard by Suffolk City Council at its April 17 meeting.

The commission also voted Tuesday against allowing extended hours for Rennee’s Celebration Center at 178 E. Washington St.

By a 5-3 vote, the commission denied a request from Rennee’s owner, Jeffrey Townsend, to extend its operating hours to allow it to close at 2 a.m. instead of midnight on a daily basis. City Council will take up the matter at its April 17 meeting.

Though Suffolk Police and city staff opposed allowing Townsend to extend his hours, he said that of the 54 events the facility has hosted, none required a response from the city’s police or fire and rescue departments.

Townsend said he is losing money by not being able to offer extended hours for events. He cited a New Year’s Eve party he wanted to host on a weeknight that, because the facility closed at 11 p.m., it could not host.

“I didn’t remodel this building … just to be doing it,” Townsend said. “I did it to make money. I do what I’m supposed to do to make my business successful.”

Townsend, when he received his conditional use permit to operate the facility on Feb. 7, 2018, had requested then to allow its operating hours to extend until 2 a.m. daily, but at that time, City Council approved an ordinance allowing Rennee’s to operate from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.

City staff, in its report, put together a table outlining similar public assembly uses and their hours of operation. All but one of the nine places had approved operating hours to stay open no later than 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays no later than midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. The exception was The Mansion at Double R Ranch in a rural part of southwest Suffolk, which has indoor operating hours until midnight Sundays through Thursdays and to 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.