Fisher Park isn’t going to have another bed and breakfast, at least not anytime soon after the action of the Zoning Commission on Tuesday, May 20 in the Council Chamber.
The owners of Hillside, the historic 31 room home in Fisher Park at 301 Fisher Park Circle that was recently renovated, had applied for a special use permit to allow them to operate the home as a bed and breakfast. But the Zoning Commission after a long discussion turned down the request by a 4-3 vote. Voting against the special use permit were commissioners Gene Lester, Janet Mazzurco, Hugh Holston and Donald Blackstock. Voting in favor were commissioners Zac Engle, Andrew Pinto and Marion Dansby-Byrd.
Hillside was already locally famous as the home of Julian Price, who turned Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Co. into the largest corporation in North Carolina, but it became nationally famous when in 2017 it was the subject of the A&E television show Hoarders.
At the Zoning Commission meeting a letter was read from the board of the Fisher Park Neighborhood Association which stated that with the conditions added the neighborhood association board was in favor of granting the special use permit. The conditions were that parking be on-site, that no amplified music ever be played outside and not be played inside after 10 p.m. and that the guest records kept in compliance with city ordinances be made available to the zoning administrator on request.
But there were about 50 neighbors present who were mostly opposed. The bottom line seemed to be that the neighbors felt burned and didn’t trust the Hillside owners to do what they had agreed to do under the permit application.
David Craft said that a neighborhood committee had been established to negotiate a solution and that effort had fallen apart. Craft also showed screen shots of the advertising that is currently on the internet to rent the entire Hillside residence for $1,750 a night. He asked what kind of bed and breakfast costs $1,750 a night.
Craft said. “It is not right for this neighborhood or for any neighborhood. This is not a bed and breakfast.”
He added, “If you don’t do it, we’ll work something out.”
Karen Andersen said she was on the board of the neighborhood association and that she didn’t understand that the requirement that the parking be on site only applied to the bed and breakfast and not to other events. She said that when they had events at Hillside she couldn’t drive to her own home because the streets were blocked.
Several neighbors mentioned the signs that were put up in front of the house for the last event that said no parking on this side of the street. They said that meant the cars parked on their streets and blocked their driveways.
It didn’t help that the house was already listed on the airbnb website as available for rental, before getting the special use permit.
Kirkman said that according to the city ordinances an airbnb was a tourist house or bed and breakfast, and in single family residential zoning, needed a special use permit to operate legally.
One of the owners of Hillside Michael Fuko-Rizzo said they had agreed to the conditions requested by the neighborhood association board. He said the house was not going to be an event center. He said that they had sold their current residence and were moving into the servants quarters of the house with their twin four-and-a-half-year-old daughters, so the main part of the house could be used as a bed and breakfast. He said they had plenty of room for parking up to 25 cars on-site and that there were a hundred parking spaces along Fisher Park that were available for the public in the event they had a party.
Fuko-Rizzo agreed that the neighbors had been told different plans they had for the house, but said that restoring the house had been an “evolution” and they had dealt with problems as they came up. He apologized for letting a friend have a wedding at the house. He said that he had no idea, he couldn’t do it.
The Zoning Commission had a long discussion about the request and asked Zoning Administrator Mike Kirkman a number of questions about how enforcement would work and what control the city had over bed and breakfast establishments and event centers.
Kirkman said that Hillside could not be an event center without being rezoned, but that the owners could have parties like any other residential property owner in the city. Of course, having a party in a 31 room house is a little different than most of the parties homeowners in Greensboro have.
Lester said that of the three conditions that had to be met to approve the special use permit he had trouble with two. He had problems with the idea that it would be in harmony with the neighborhood and did not see it as contributing to the neighborhood.
Mazzurco had a host of problems with the whole idea, from parking to parties.
Commission Zac Engle said that there were already two bed and breakfasts in Fisher Park. He said that granting the special use permit would prevent the owners from renting the house out for parties.