In the March City Council Meeting, dialogue surrounding the subject of Bed & Breakfasts in the town of Minden continued. This did not directly pertain to the property formerly known as Grace Estate, but rather is a change to Minden’s Code of Ordinances that would add language defining a Bed & Breakfast as well as some other minor revisions.
Some vocal members of the public brought forward their concerns to the City Council before the meeting began when there was a time for public comments, the first of which being Emily Hunt.
“There are changes that pertain to adding lodging houses, also known as bed and breakfast, as an acceptable home occupation,” said Hunt. “My question is this … once we’ve made this change, what will be the process of approving a lodging house or bed and breakfast? Will it go through the process of meeting the approval of the planning commission and then the city council, or will it just be a rubber stamp approval because it will be an acceptable home occupation?”
Minden’s Building Official, Brent Cooley, answered Hunt’s question, stating “If it’s passed as written, a bed and breakfast with no more than two bedrooms will be able to come through my office just like in any other home occupation license. I will be able to approve, just like home offices or anything else.”
Hunt followed up with a question, asking Cooley who will be approving B&Bs with more than two bedrooms available for rent.
“If the request is more than two bedrooms, then it would have to go somewhere else to get approval. Anytime you’re asking for a variance to the regulations it starts at the planning commission.”
The next to voice their concerns to the Council was Catherine Hunt. The changes to the ordinance put forth would allow B&B owners to put 2×3 foot signs in their yards to indicate their residences are B&Bs. Hunt’s concern seemed to be that the signs would become eyesores if too many entrepreneurs decided to go forward with their own B&Bs.
“So my neighbor, for instance, decides he wants to rent out or she wants to rent out two bedrooms in their room. They can put a sign out in their front yard anywhere in the city, and then they just come to you and you tell them you can do two bedrooms?” asked Hunt.
“You can come get a home occupational business license for a lodging house up to two bedrooms rented out individually, but they have to live there and it will be their common residence,” Cooley responded.
So there’s a possibility that we could have 2×3 signs with Bed & Breakfast all over the city?” asked Hunt. Cooley responded, “Everywhere anybody wanted to build one.”
She furthered some questions about how the City would monitor B&Bs to make sure they didn’t have more than the allowed two rooms without a variance.
“If it becomes a problem with too much traffic there, it would be reported and it will get administered,” said Cooley, going on to state that individuals with concerns could report them to a variety of people who work for the City, whether that be himself, the Chief of Police, their City Councilman, etc.
The last member of the public to speak on the matter was Joshua Hunt, who didn’t bring forth a complaint as much as an observation that the ordinances presented differed from those of other cities. More specifically, that the other cities he referenced had the approval of B&Bs under their local planning commission’s jurisdiction.
“I looked in at least 15 different cities, based on how popular bed and breakfasts were in those cities, and in none of the ones that I can find they adjusted the home occupation,” said Hunt. He specifically cited the ordinances of Natchitoches, St. Francisville, and Lafayette to establish his point.
“It’s odd the way you’re doing it because, again, I’m not seeing it anywhere else in the state. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, but it’s not common. And I looked at cities that had very popular bed and breakfasts. And the way that they did it protects the residents in every single one,” said Hunt.
“It just seems like that’s what you would do first. Look at the other cities that do it well and try to emulate it. And that’s my suggestion to the council, to look at that possible way to do it as opposed to the way that it’s currently done, because it’s so odd.”
Cooley then responded to Hunt’s concern, stating that for a lot of these other cities, these ordinances were created before the state guideline that he used was made.
“The definitions follow the guidelines in the state. Most of those ordinances you referred to in the other cities were written long ago, long before those definitions were established. Bed & Breakfast covers a whole gamut of different things. It can be commercial buildings, or as you understand a bed and breakfast, in a residential setting,” said Cooley.
“Our ordinances look different from other cities’ ordinances, and this just seemed to be the easiest and best place to put the small traditional bed and breakfast.”
Before moving on from public comment, Councilman Terika Williams-Walker of Dist. B commented, saying that her problem with the ordinances is that Bed & Breakfasts, with two rooms or less for rent, would not go through the planning commission/council for approval.
“Being able to have a Bed & Breakfast and it not go before the planning commission or the council is the main issue—whether it’s one bedroom, two bedrooms—being able to have a bed and breakfast and it not go before the planning commission and council,” said Councilman Walker.
All of the conversation referenced above was made during public comment. Apparently the concerns raised had some sway over the council because, when it came time to motion the item forward, none of the council members spoke up, resulting in the item failing due to lack of a motion.
The Minden City Council Meeting takes place on the first Monday of each month at Minden City Hall starting at 5:30 PM. The meetings are open for the public to attend.