Plan to loosen B&B rules receives mixed reviews
By ANDREW MEACHAM
© St. Petersburg Times,
ST. PETERSBURG -- City plans to change the way its ordinances regard bed-and-breakfast inns drew mixed reviews Monday in the part of town affected most by the changes.
The proposal would gut a number of restrictions on B&Bs, including the number of allowable rooms, parking requirements, and a provision outlawing parties and receptions. The guiding principle behind the revisions is to regulate B&Bs more like hotels, whose operations are overseen by the state, said the city's assistant director of development services, Julie Weston.
Weston appeared before the North Shore Neighborhood Association after learning from the Council of Neighborhood Associations that North Shore had more B&Bs than any other neighborhood.
The proposed changes would not affect the bulk of North Shore property, which is zoned for single-family housing. The neighborhood's boundaries are Fifth Avenue to 30th Avenue N and Fourth Street to Tampa Bay. The area in North Shore most affected by loosening restrictions on B&Bs is between Fifth and Ninth avenues N.
Several B&B owners showed up to lobby neighbors for rewriting the ordinance, which Weston said was outdated. But some residents said the changes could bring unwanted traffic into the neighborhood, cut down on homeowners' access to parking, and open the door to loud parties at night.
"It's a total and complete reversal of the existing ordinance," said Jackie Guensler, a former North Shore board member. "We are expanding the definition of bed-and-breakfasts and making them into hotels."
Weston said that the original ordinance, crafted in the 1970s, treated B&Bs as distinct from hotels, which are allowed in some residential districts, as well as in mixed-use, commercial and office-retail zones. Those regulations were overly strict, she said, out of a desire to discourage homeowners from carving up their properties and converting them to B&Bs. The proposed ordinance expands the zoning districts where a B&B may locate to include all districts where hotels and motels are allowed.
The Professional Association of Innkeepers International defines a bed-and-breakfast as commercial lodging with five to 10 rooms, where the owners serve breakfast as part of the room rate and do not hold liquor licenses. Research distributed at the meeting by the St. Petersburg Area Association of Bed & Breakfast Inns claimed 40,000 B&Bs in the United States today, up from 5,000 five years ago.
Time magazine in a special September issue reports that baby boomers eager to supplement their incomes into retirement are driving up the purchase price of existing B&Bs to $159,000 per room, or double what they cost two years ago. But the same article cites Innkeepers International research showing that 45 percent of B&B operators depend on outside income to make ends meet, and that profits have not kept pace with rising costs.
Innkeepers assured North Shore residents that upscale business travelers make up much of their clientele, and that nearly half of B&B customers earn $75,000 a year. As for parties such as wedding receptions and other events, proprietors need them as a marketing tool more than a source of direct revenue, said Ed Caldwell, who owns Dickens House.
Under the proposed ordinance, owners would have to draw up parking plans for every special event and make sure their guests complied. Caldwell said that he understood neighbors' apprehension about parking and parties but that time would calm all doubts.
"A change of any sort makes people nervous," he said.
CAYA COSTA: 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Rampart Properties, 10033 Dr. M.L. King (Ninth) St. N.
EUCLID HEIGHTS: 7 p.m. Tuesday. First Alliance Church, 5000 10th St. N. City Council member Virginia Littrell.
GATEWAY: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. St. James United Methodist Church library, 845 87th Ave. N. Representative from Boyd Hill Nature Park.
LAKE MAGGIORE SHORES: 7 p.m. Thursday. Enoch Davis Center, 1111 18th Ave. S. Crime awareness presentation by St. Petersburg police.
LAKEWOOD CIVIC: 7 p.m. Tuesday. Lakewood United Church of Christ, 2601 54th Ave. S. Open forum.
METHODIST TOWN: 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Dwight Jones Neighborhood Center, 1035 Burlington Ave. N. Open forum.
UPTOWN: 7 p.m. Thursday. The Sunshine Center, 330 Fifth St. N. Kate Hoffman of Janus Research; city historic planner Rick Smith.
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