Decatur City Commission defers vote on boutique innTalia Bunting speaks about her proposed boutique inn during the Decatur City Commission meeting on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Decatur, GA – The Decatur City Commission at its Oct. 17 regular meeting deferred acting on a conditional use permit application for an eight-bedroom boutique inn at 620 Pinetree Drive. The commission delayed taking a vote after feeling like they needed more information from the applicant.
Talia and Joe Bunting submitted a request for a conditional use permit at 620 Pinetree Drive, which falls under the R-60 zoning district. It will be known as the Queen Bee Inn.
The Buntings moved to Decatur in 2021. Talia Bunting has a background in property management and has over 19 properties under management for short-term rentals in metro Atlanta.
When they moved to metro Atlanta several years ago, there was nowhere for their family to stay that wasn’t in a downtown area or a large hotel, Talia Bunting said during the city commission meeting.
“Joe and I…have been dreaming about owning a neighborhood inn…[and] operating and bringing one to the neighborhoods that we love so much in Atlanta,” Bunting said. “We started dreaming about what would it look like to help provide hospitality to the city that we care about.”
The Buntings are currently under contract to purchase the property.
In Bunting’s conversations with the neighbors, the three concerns that have come up are trash, parking and traffic, she said.
“We don’t expect that this would really impact those things in any major way,” Bunting said. “The proposed inn is compatible with the existing residential, religious and educational uses of adjacent and nearby properties. Residents of adjacent properties, as well as visitors and staff at the nearby churches, will continue to benefit from the usability of their respective properties unhindered.”
St. Thomas Moore has more than 400 students, Hampton Hall has 16 units and First Christian Church has about 100 attendees. The Queen Bee Inn would have eight cars max at any given time and 16 guests. Bunting doesn’t expect the inn to have a big impact on traffic.
She added that parking has been a concern, especially during the school pick up time. She is aiming to have six parking spots on the property.
“It is important to me to make sure we have a solution, so we’re not adding to that. I have begun the process of looking for alternative spots should we run out of parking spots,” Bunting said.
As for trash, the garbage bins would be in an enclosure behind the inn.
The planning commission recommended approval of the conditional use permit with conditions, including:
– The lodging house must be managed by a full-time resident of the property who must be present and residing in the home when guests are present.
– Activities and functions at the lodging house must be provided for overnight guests only. No commercial activities other than providing lodging for registered guests shall be permitted.
– No displays of goods, products, services or other advertising can be visible from outside the building.
– The maximum number of guest rooms is eight, exclusive of the caretakers residential unit.
– Guests cannot stay for more than 30 days.
– The proposed off-street parking, and vehicular ingress and egress will be developed similar to the site plan.
– Evergreen shrubs or a landscape wall must be installed in the landscape planter strip between Pinetree Drive and the off-street parking.
– A shared parking agreement with a nearby institution or commercial entity will be developed for valet parking or overflow parking should there be events at the property.
Former Decatur mayor Walt Drake said the commercial use of the property is inappropriate in a residential area and would set an undesirable precedent.
The property at 630 Pinetree Drive is also for sale and if Bunting purchases 620 Pinetree Drive, she would have the right of first refusal on the property next door.
“I have concerns that that property will also be used by the applicant as overnight lodging, whether they try to subsequently get permission for another lodging house or it becomes a five-unit bed and breakfast or Airbnb…thus creating an overnight lodging rental complex in a residential neighborhood,” Drake said.
The city has had quality development in its commercial district and protection of the residential neighborhoods, which has helped make good things possible. Residents who have expressed opposition to the proposal have supported responsible change in Decatur, he added.
“This change, call it what you may, a boutique lodging house or a hotel, is not a responsible change. It is an encroachment of commercial development in a residential neighborhood and with consequential detriment to the neighboring residential property owners due to traffic, parking, non-residential uses and disruptions,” Drake said.
Tricia Drake said she was concerned about traffic, parking and the use of the space for weddings and parties.
“Regular car traffic to the site will include those of paying overnight customers up to 16, the caretaker, housekeepers, pool maintenance, the owners, various delivery and maintenance workers, and any individuals who are visiting the customers,” Tricia Drake said. “All these vehicles affect parking and traffic in the neighborhood, yet the proposal includes only five or six parking spaces, all on the Pinetree Drive side of the house. In effect, there will be paved parking on what is now lawn.”
The proposed circular driveway would require an additional curb cut. Planning and Economic Development Director Angela Threadgill later added that this would require a variance.
Tricia Drake added that the circular driveway would also impact traffic and parking, and overflow parking would extend down Pinetree Drive.
“Weddings and parties are part of the proposed business plan. These events will exacerbate traffic, parking and noise. This is not conducive to a residential neighborhood. While the venue can only be used for events held by an overnight guest, I assume I or anyone else could rent a unit or all eight units and have a party,” she said. “One could say that if there are late or loud parties, or traffic or parking violations, the police can be called. But why should we put neighbors in a position to have to do this?”
Pearl McHanney added that the circular driveway exiting onto Pinetree Drive at the corner of West Ponce de Leon Avenue is unrealistic and dangerous.
“Exiting Pinetree Drive to turn left onto Ponce requires extra caution already. Turning into or exiting the proposed circular drive that close to the corner is likely to be extremely dangerous and hazardous,” McHanney said. “The proposed parking spaces and circular drive would require major restructuring of the hillside supporting the house. The existing driveway is already very steep and generally would generate more runoff water due to the increased impervious surfaces at the house.”
The city commission ultimately decided to defer the application until its next meeting and requested additional information from Bunting about impervious surface, parking plan, parking agreement, the maximum number of events per year, a definition of a micro-event and plans to provide alcohol.