As B&Bs come to historic homes, realities might trump goals

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Owner-occupied homes in historic Newtown will be able to operate as bed and breakfasts in Salisbury, the City Council decided, but the mayor was hoping the concentration would be on homes plagued with crime and non-conforming uses.

Bed and breakfast legislation is “tied to many other issues facing the neighbors,” Mayor Jim Ireton said.

Some of the properties have non-conforming uses and code compliance infractions. At others, police have been called multiple times, he said.

 “Though I am happy to support BB legislation, having these in Newtown will not address the problems created by the properties that fit those categories,” the mayor said.

Some Newtown neighbors have complained about rundown, unoccupied homes, some in foreclosure, and proposed bed and breakfast transformations.

“I understand where the mayor is coming from. He’s interested in seeing the worst properties become the best,” City Council President Jake Day.

“I agree with him and that philosophy but what council approved and what will become law does not specify anything about that, and that is the right approach,” Day said.

“I know many of the properties that are interested in this are not places where the police have been called frequently. There would be a huge backlash from Newtown neighbors if we said that not enough crime  has been committed at your property to become a be a bed and breakfast,” Day said.

A home on North Division Street, for sale in the $300,000 range and advertised as completely renovated, has been mentioned as a potential bed and breakfast, although the on-line description mentions five bedrooms. The City Council agreed bed and breakfasts can have no more than four bedrooms.

Three of them can be rented, and the other must be for the owners, who will be required to live there. There will be stipulations for signage and lighting. Guests may stay no longer than 14 days in a six-month period.

Day said the duration was extended to accommodate parents of Salisbury University students who travel to town to visit their children or attend events, so they can come several times each year.

“My main concern is the property value of the homeowners that live in the neighborhood,” the mayor said.

“It is long overdue that the city council address the issues of illegal non-conforming uses. The amount of money being made in cut-up houses, while destroying homeowner property values around them has to stop.  Newtown can realize its real potential if tough decisions are made regarding these housing issues,” he said.

That’s why he asked the city council to delay, “until we can get our court case about non-conforming use on Poplar Hill resolved,” he said, adding his main concern is property value of homeowners who live there.

Day said the City Council will address non-conformance at an upcoming work session.

Ireton strongly disagreed with the argument that some families that buy large homes with multiple bedrooms find them difficult to afford, and would benefit from bed and breakfast income. He said buyers knew the size of the home, and related expenses, before making the purchase.

“That kind of thinking, that just shows an absolute walking away from the problem,” he said.

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