Bexley has its first bed and breakfast now that city council granted a variance to allow property owners Michael and Lesli Mautz to convert a multi-family residence at 519 S. Drexel Ave.
Council approved the variance an Aug. 13 meeting, with Councilman Mark Masser casting the only dissenting vote.
Masser said he believes the 519 S. Drexel Ave. site is appropriate for a bed and breakfast, but thought the city should have drafted a comprehensive, rather than a site-specific, policy regarding bed and breakfasts.
"I believe in doing it the right way," Masser said, "and the right way is to do a citywide approach."
Councilman Richard Sharp suggested adding language to Ordinance 31-13 that would require the Drexel Avenue bed and breakfast to adhere to future zoning restrictions.
"I want to them to know up front that they're not going to be grandfathered" if council passes more comprehensive legislation in the future, Sharp said.
Other council members said they agreed with City Attorney Louis Chodosh's assessment that the Drexel Avenue property should be grandfathered, so as not to place an undue burden on the Mautzes.
"It gets me nervous to change the law after somebody's already done something," Chodosh said.
Councilman Steve Keyes said the Drexel Avenue bed and breakfast can serve as a model if council chooses to pass citywide legislation in the future.
"By having a pilot project, we're going to learn a ton of things we didn't know," Keyes said. "We can't make things up out of whole cloth."
Councilman Matt Lampke, chairman of council's Zoning and Development Committee, said approving the Drexel Avenue bed and breakfast makes sense because of its proximity to the East Main Street commercial corridor.
"The mixed use (zoning) on East Main Street allows for a hotel option to be put in place," he said. "We have had discussions in the past about the bed and breakfast option."
Mayor Ben Kessler said the city researched similar bed and breakfast ordinances in neighboring communities. Kessler added that the Drexel Avenue B&B fulfills a community need, since local rabbis have repeatedly requested accommodations for congregation members who host out-of-town guests for special occasions.
"I've been told over and over (by developers) that a boutique hotel isn't right for Bexley," Kessler said. "We've consistently sought developments like this."
Most residents who spoke out about the bed and breakfast voiced their support for the development. Neighbors who opposed it cited concerns about crime and safety issues and increased traffic and parking problems.
Brentwood Road resident Janet Helgeson, however, said she thinks the B&B will give visitors an opportunity to acquaint themselves with the area, as she and her husband did before moving to Ohio.
"I'm delighted by this because I'm a consumer of bed and breakfasts," she said. "I think having a charming bed and breakfast is a place where people who want to live here can discover Bexley."
The Mautzes and architects Andrew Rosenthal and Pete Foster told city officials that a four-car parking garage which currently sits on the 519 S. Drexel Ave. property will be demolished to accommodate the seven parking spaces required by the city's ordinance.
They said they will screen the parking spaces from neighbors with landscaping and work with the city on design plans.
The Mautzes said they tentatively plan to open their business next spring, depending on the progress of design work.