MOULTRIE -- The Moultrie City Council is tentatively scheduled to make its decision on the Bud Vereen House, a proposed bed and breakfast and events center on South Main Street.
The decision by developer Larry Franklin to convert the house into the events center has been met by strong opposition by neighbors on South Main Street and on Oak Lane.
Franklin said he has spent the last three months renovating the house into a bed and breakfast. It has four master bedrooms, each with its own bathroom; a living room; a library; a sports room; a pool; a kitchen; and a dining room.
The house's garage is planned to be converted into a fitness center, and Franklin said he plans to enhance the current parking area in order to comfortably fit 50 cars on the property.
The parking and potential traffic it could cause, however, are the biggest concerns of about 20 neighbors around the old Bud Vereen House. Pat Bryant, a resident of Oak Lane who lives directly behind the house, said people parking on South Main Street to attend an event at the "party house" can create significant traffic problems.
With cars potentially being parked on both sides to attend events, Bryant said South Main Street would essentially become a one-lane street. He said that can also create a hazard for emergency vehicles on South Main Street, a main thoroughfare for them to respond to calls, and cars on the street will have no place to move out of the way.
Traffic safety is the most significant of the three main issues neighbors have with the house being used as an events center, Bryant said. Any parties held at the house bring in strangers that no one will be responsible for, unlike at neighborhood gatherings; there are concerns music at the house could disturb the neighbors and there is the possibility of alcohol being consumed, even without Franklin applying for a liquor license.
Franklin said he never plans to sell alcohol at the events center, and he will not apply for a liquor license.
The events center is being geared as an upscale place for events, such as wedding receptions, baby showers, family reunions and business gatherings, Franklin said. The events center, however, is needed for the house to be profitable.
"The events center is critical to us," Franklin said, "because, just like the Barber Tucker Inn, the bed and breakfast alone will not generate enough income in Moultrie to be self-sustaining. We need the special events to supplement the bed and breakfast so that we can have a profitable business."
To help ease neighbors' concerns, Franklin said he will include in his lease agreement that 100 people will be the maximum size of events, and no more than 50 cars will be parked there. If a crowd is too large to be hosted at the Bud Vereen House, he will direct the group to a place with more room to host their event.
Bryant said that still raises concerns for him and for the neighbors, as they wonder how Franklin will be able to monitor the number of people or cars that come to an event. As much as Franklin may try to do so, he cannot control where people will park when attending an event at the house, Bryant said.
While parking on South Main Street is a concern he is aware of, Franklin said he will ask his patrons not to park there during events. It is perfectly legal for cars to be parked on South Main Street, and he knows there is a safety issue with cars parked in front of the house. He said he will strongly encourage people not to park on South Main Street, and he will not allow anyone to park on Oak Lane to attend an event.
While he and the neighbors have nothing personal against Franklin, Bryant said they are opposed to him bringing a bed and breakfast and events center into a residential area. All of the neighbors want the house to keep its current zoning as a single-family residential dwelling, Bryant said.
Franklin said he is modeling his bed and breakfast after the Barber-Tucker House on Third Street Southwest. He has done research on the house and the surrounding area and found that there has been nothing but positives from neighbors of the Barber-Tucker House, and he feels the Bud Vereen House can be just as positive.
The neighbors and the city council did vote unanimously to approve the Barber-Tucker House and its special use permit in 1999, Bryant said. However, the fact the council has put a moratorium on any other bed and breakfast requests in the city shows they recognize problems with their own ordinance.
"The city council sees that there's a problem with their current bed and breakfast ordinance," Bryant said. "If they had an ordinance that said a bed and breakfast is a bed and breakfast without events would be much more palatable for everybody."
Franklin said he would like to have the city council members and any neighbors come and take a look at the renovations he has made the Bud Vereen House. He believes it would be a "terrible mistake" for the council to vote on the fate of the house without first seeing it, and he would like the neighbors to see how much he has worked on it.
Bryant said he understands Franklin has put a lot of money into the Bud Vereen House, but he feels no sympathy for him because all the neighbors have done the same with their houses. Franklin also spent all the money "at his own risk" because he put all this work into the house without knowing its fate by the city council.