Rural Residents Oppose Expansion Of Wedding Venue In Property Rights Debate -Updated

***Update – In the Hamilton County County Commissions Regular Meeting on the morning of November 18th, both resolutions were passed. The Short-term vacation rental passed 5 to 3. The Bed & Breakfast passed 6 to 2. ****

Hamilton County, TN – During the Hamilton County Rezoning Committee’s meeting on Wednesday, November 11th, two resolutions were presented for special permits granting a short-term vacation rental and the construction of a new Bed & Breakfast adjacent to Howe Farms, 11126 Dolly Pond Road in Birchwood. 

The Executive Director at Regional Planning Agency, John Bridger said, “There was some opposition in the Planning Commission with concerns of traffic and noise.” 

However, Bridger stated that the Planning Commission approved both requests. 

The applicant for the rezoning request stated, “The property is adjacent to our 150 acres farm where we currently have three wedding venues.  We also have houses that people want to stay in overnight at the weddings.  And so, these are short-term rentals, usually two-night stays.   

“We currently have three Bed & Breakfasts on this property but we just have a need for more. The first request was for an existing house on the ten-acre lot.  The second request was for new construction of a Bed and Breakfast,” said the applicant. 

The opposition to the Resolutions was allowed 15 minutes to speak. 

The resident of Dolly Pond Road presented her case. 

“These proposed changes will lead to increased noise, traffic and general disruption in the lives of the people who currently live in this area.  The current winding two-lane road is not able to accommodate significantly more traffic. ” 

“This will bring people into our neighborhood who are not interested in our community.  They will come here with the main purpose of celebrating and partying, often with alcohol, late into the night.  They will not be interested in maintaining our quiet community or the safety of our homes, animals and children.” 

The opposition stated that the changes would lead to lowered property values in the area. 

“When you look at ads for homes for sale in this area, one of the main selling points is ‘quiet, country living’.  People looking for said ‘quiet, country living’ will not be interested in purchasing a home or property close to a commercially-zoned area, nor will they want to live next to a Bed and Breakfast…a loud, noisy wedding venue and multiple vacation rentals.”

“Perspective buyers would not want to live close to these and neither do we.” 

The opposition continued, “This area is one of the few agricultural areas left in Hamilton County and the people of this area want to keep it urban agricultural.” 

“I have talked to a lot of my neighbors concerning the proposed zoning changes and not one of them said they were in support of it.”  

“Many of the people who live in this area are older and have lived here for many years.  Other than signing a petition, they don’t have the ways and means to object to these changes.  These are the people who have lived here the longest and have invested the most in this area.” 

The resident stated that one of the other residents she spoke to was afraid to openly oppose the resolution due to the wealth and influence of the applicant.   

“I have to admit that I am personally concerned about this as well.  I don’t want to believe there would be retribution but that is a concern for some of us,” said the opposition’s speaker. 

She went on to say, “As you can see from the number of signatures on the petition….there are a lot of people opposed to these changes. These people are a good representation of District 9 and they all recognize the value of maintaining a peaceful, quiet community that we all desire.” 

“The proposed changes will encroach upon community members who are completely against these changes and we urge you to vote against all the proposed changes.” 

Executive Director Bridger spoke about the vacation rental property, “If there is a documented violation, this permit can be revoked.” 

He went on to explain that for the new Bed & Breakfast the permit in non-revocable. 

District 7 Commissioner Sabreana Smedley asked, “Is there a restriction on the hours of operation for the Bed & Breakfast?” 

Bridger replied, “I’m not aware of there being any specific limit to the hours of operation for the B&B.” 

District 4 Commissioner Warren Mackey said, “We don’t need people being in fear.  Can we do anything to allay those concerns, put her at rest and protect her if she needs it?” 

District 3 Commissioner Greg Martin stated, “I don’t know who the applicant is, I’ve never met him, he has zero influence in my life.” 

Martin offered his phone number to the opposition’s speaker and the other fearful resident so that he could “assure her that I have no concern about someone having influence on my vote whatsoever.” 

Martin also stated “That’s unfortunate that people feel that way.” 

On rebuttal, the applicant stated, “We want to be good neighbors.  We don’t want anyone to be afraid of us.  I don’t know any reason why they should be.” 

Commissioner Mackey gave the applicant his phone number and asked him to call. 

Commissioner Martin, Sharpe and Smedley will present the Resolutions to the County Commission next week. 

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