Planning commission tables action on controversial bed and breakfast application

Published 1:38 pm Friday, May 12, 2023

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NATCHEZ — The Natchez Planning Commission tabled an application from owners of the Guest House, located at the corner of Franklin and Pearl, who have purchased the house at 107 Arlington Ave. and would like to operate it as a four-unit bed and breakfast with an event venue to accommodate 150 people.

Frankie Legaux, Natchez city planner, said she had received approximately 30 letters from neighbors and residents in the area who are opposed to a bed and breakfast at that location.

In fact, the Planning Commission meeting Thursday night had much more of an audience than is typical. About 20 residents of the area attended, and a handful were selected to speak on their concerns about the proposed bed and breakfast.

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Neither owners Tiffany and Michael Clinton of Los Angeles or Shiela Prunty, their representative whose submitted the application, attended the meeting in person. However, Latasha Clark, who said she was hired recently to be general manager at The Guest House and of the Arlington Street property and another the Clintons own in Natchez, called Prunty and Clinton via cell phone during the meeting so they could participate.

Neighbors said they were most concerned about the portion of the application that calls for a venue for groups of up to 150. Neighbors said no room exists on the narrow street for parking for such a crowd.

Planning commissioners expressed concern, too, about parking, as well as concerns that the plans for use of the property do not meet the requirements for a bed and breakfast.

Planning commissioner Butch Johnson pointed out city law requires owners of a bed and breakfast must reside in the home or provide for a resident of the home who also manages the bed and breakfast.

Commissioners also expressed concern about parking if renting the home to four different occupants, one for each of the four bed and breakfast rooms.

Planning commissioner Bill Ennis he has “great concerns” for the neighbors’ property and privacy.

“I drove there and drove down the alley and (looked at) parking in the parking places and it is real tough without backing into the neighbor’s property that backs up to that property,” Ennis said. “I have great concerns about having folks staying there that don’t have any responsibilities to the neighbors, so there is no telling what might happen with that traffic backing out. It is troubling, very troubling.”

Planning commissioner Mac Hazlip said he agreed with Ennis’s assessment of the situation.

“I concur. I did the same thing. I could not get into the carport without using the neighbor’s driveway,” Hazlip said.

“There is not a lot of privacy for the folks there on the corner with their nice little porch where they have seats. If you get too many people in that house, then they have lost their privacy,” Ennis said.

However, Clark said the owners do not intend to rent the house out by individual rooms. Rather, they want to rent the house out in its entirety to one individual at a time.

And Prunty, over the phone, said the 150 person event space request is if anyone rents the house, for instance for a wedding weekend, the renter could hold a bachelorette party there.

The majority of the commissioners said the event space portion of the application would not be approved because of the parking issue.

Commission chairperson Cheryl Rinehart explained to Clark and the others attending the meeting via telephone that the property is more suitable for a guesthouse, rather than a bed and breakfast.

Commissioner Charles Harris suggested that Clark get with the owners of the property and explain what has been said during the hearing “so they will know exactly what they need to do. They need to understand the commission is finding that place is not suitable for a bed and breakfast and they need to figure out whether they want to be a bed and breakfast or a guesthouse and try to explain the difference to them.”

Legaux said if the owners want to operate as a guesthouse rather than a bed and breakfast that would require a new application.

Several resident of the area spoke during the public hearing, including Jean Biglane of 213 Arlington Ave.

“We are neighbors. We know each other and take care of each other and love each other and others coming in who are not part of our neighborhood, we don’t know each other,” she said. Biglane said new residents are welcome in the neighborhood, but the very short term occupants of a bed and breakfast may not value the feeling of the other residents who live there.

Leona Adams asked how many bed and breakfast establishments Natchez needs.

“My daughter and son in law live next door to B&B here and regularly find bottles of beer and old cans on their property. These B&B are used for parties. That’s what people do recently. You don’t have a big party in your own home. You have it in an AirBNB and let someone else clean up the mess at their property and take care of the damage,” Adams said.

“We are asking you to please not allow this in our neighborhood. This has been a residential neighborhood for 120 years and where do we draw the line? Does everything have to be commercial? We are not zoned commercial. We are zoned residential,” she said.

The commission voted unanimously to table action on the application until its next meeting, which is June 15 at 5:15 p.m. at the Council Chambers, 115 S. Pearl St., Natchez.