Berlin BZA Approves Bed And Breakfast

Berlin BZA Approves Bed And Breakfast
Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN – A historic South Main Street home can be used as a bed and breakfast following approval from the town’s board of zoning appeals.

On Wednesday, the board of appeals voted unanimously to approve a conditional use request that will allow Mark Harris to use his home at 101 S. Main Street as a bed and breakfast.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” Harris said. “It could be as far as a year away.”

Harris told the board that since buying the house in October, he’d decided that operating it as a bed and breakfast would help recoup some of the money he was putting into the historic home’s renovation. He said he’d like to be able to offer visitors a room or two during the summer and when the town held special events.

“I don’t foresee or wish to have a fulltime bed and breakfast,” he said.

Though Harris was asking for the board’s approval, he said he still had a lot of yard work and home improvements to make before he would try to lease rooms.

“It was let go for quite some time,” he said.

Carol Rose, chair of the town’s historic district commission, voiced her support of Harris’ request.

“I think this is terrific,” she said, thanking Harris for the improvements he’d already begun at the house. “The work that’s been done already shows you love this town.”

The board voted unanimously to approve the conditional use for the property.

At Wednesday’s meeting the board was also presented with a request for a variance for a Brittany Lane property. Homeowners Junior and Janet Fortney were asking for a variance that would allow them to build a second garage on their property.

They said they wanted to build a 20-by-24-foot garage that would give Junior Fortney enough space to store his tools and work on his car. Janet Fortney explained they were seeking a variance of the required side yard setback so they could put the garage right on the property line. Putting it closer to the house, she explained, would force them to drive behind the house to enter it.

“I’m looking at curb appeal for my house,” she said. “I think it looks better if it’s all lined up.”

Joe Moore, chairman of the board, explained that in order for the board to approve a variance, the applicant had to demonstrate a practical difficulty or undue hardship.

Board member Woody Bunting said the sketch plan the Fortneys submitted didn’t accurately depict where the garage was to be placed. He said neighbors might have an opoion about the project if they understood where the garage was going to be built. He added that if the board approved this request they’d likely receive similar requests.

“It sets a precedent,” he said.

When board member Doug Parks made a motion to approve the variance request, it failed with just two votes. While the Fortneys would have to wait a year to present the same application again, Moore said that if they changed their request they could approach the board again sooner.

“We don’t like turning people down but the standard for a variance is different than approval for a conditional use,” he said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.