The question of whether to rezone a residence on Garner Street to allow the owner to operate a bed and breakfast ran into another obstacle at Monday’s special city council meeting.
City councilors couldn’t take action on the rezoning ordinance because local law prohibits them from acting at the first reading of the ordinance. Mayor Ken Purdy said the council wouldn’t waiver from that.
That wasn’t the new wrinkle, however.
City Attorney Park Medearis said the housing addition that includes the 1224 Garner property has protective covenants. Those covenants don’t allow commercial properties or businesses on the lots, but make an exception for an estate lot, in this case, Lot 9.
Medearis said the covenants have never been mentioned at Planning and Zoning meetings on the issue. He said he was not taking sides, but he felt obligated to inform the council.
“The city cannot enforce protective covenants,” Medearis told the council.
Purdy said if the council approves the rezoning request at a future meeting, the other property owners would have recourse through the district court to stop Pete and Cordelia Dixon from operating the bed and breakfast.
Purdy asked Dixon if she was aware of the covenants and she said she was and she was also aware of the exclusion of Lot 9 of the estate to the covenants.
The covenants concern was brought up at the conclusion of a lengthy discussion of the pros and cons of the issue.
Dixon said bed and breakfasts are normally in neighborhoods. She said they have a full acre on which to operate, and there would be no on street parking.
She said she doesn’t plan on having big signage on the property, and believes she has answered all the questions her neighbors have asked regarding potential problems.
Denyce Dunham Finch spoke to the character of the Dixons. She described both as nice people who have worked in the ministry.
“They’re generally good people,” Finch said. “I wouldn’t worry about them doing anything shady.”
Belinda Burnett, who lives near the property, said she’s had large numbers of girls at her home in the past when she was a Girl Scouts leader. She said she sees no problem with the Dixon plan.
“This isn’t about personalities,” said Lou Ann Tincher, who lives across the street from the Dixon property.
“It’s about a way of life.”
She said she’s proud of Tahlequah and proud of her neighborhood. She said she believes she and her neighbors have proven that a majority of the people in the neighborhood are against having a business there.
Tincher made several references to a newspaper article in the Daily Press concerning the issue. The article, she said, quoted Dr. Charles Carroll, the Planning and Zoning chairman, and David Moore, executive director of the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re not here to debate the merits of a newspaper article,” Purdy told Tincher. “We want to hear your thoughts on the rezoning of the property.”
Tincher said she’s against the rezoning and hopes the council has no pre-conceived notions about the issue and will base their vote on what each side has said.
Moore later addressed the issue. He said the Daily Press asked him his thoughts about bed and breakfasts. He said he used to ride a bicycle in the area of the proposed rezoning when he was a child.
“I haven’t seen the house in years,” Moore said. “The Chamber doesn’t take stands on rezoning issues. We don’t endorse, support or oppose any rezoning.”
Jack Reese, another Garner Street resident, said Mary Geasland has between 40 and 100 guests a month at her bed and breakfast. Geasland, in response to a question from Ward 3 Councilor Maurice Turney, said she has four rooms in her bed and breakfast.
“That’s 40-100 strangers in my neighborhood,” Reese said. “I don’t have anything against bed and breakfasts.”
He said there is a sign on the street that makes reference to children playing in the area and calls for traffic to drive slow. He said there is a concern about additional traffic in the area and also the chance that pedophiles and predators would visit the bed and breakfast.
“She can’t guarantee that it will be all good Christian people staying there,” said Ann Davis, another Garner Street resident.
“No one wants pedophiles or predators to be around,” said Craig Clifford, who spoke in favor of the issue at the Planning and Zoning meeting. “I think anyone would do their utmost to keep that from happening.”
In other business, the council voted to deny Brad Tullis’ request for a reduction to the street construction fee on Larry Avenue. Councilors were told that other developers have paid the full fee and they didn’t want to discriminate.
Councilors approved the closure of streets around the Red Fern Festival and a box car race sponsored by Lambda Chi Alpha. They also approved blocking a section of North Muskogee from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. April 26 for Philanthropy Day, which is part of Greek Week festivities.
Approval was also given to a 10-foot street, drainage and utility easement for Tullis Properties at 409 W. Fourth Street. They also approved collection of a 50 cents administration fee to offset processing costs of the mandatory state Uniform Building Code Commission fee being implemented April 1. The state UBCC fee is $4.