Northwest Civic Association trustees -- with some reservations and some conditions -- gave their unanimous approval last week for a plan that would turn part of an historic residence into a sort of bed and breakfast.
Peter and Jill Dole, owners of the former Antrim Home, 5811 Olentangy River Road, appeared before the board members accompanied by their zoning attorney, David L. Hodge of Smith and Hale LLC, seeking support for a variance.
If eventually approved by Columbus City Council, the special piece of legislation would allow the couple to have up to five guest rooms in the 138-year-old structure that was owned by the Antrim family, who in 1970 gave the city the land for the 120-acre Antrim Park across the street.
The Doles told NWCA trustees they plan to start with three guest rooms while keeping the majority of the 4,851-square-foot dwelling as their primary residence, but wanted to have the option of increasing that to five.
"This is a brand new endeavor for us," Mr. Dole said.
They envision having business travelers and people receiving long-term treatments at nearby OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital as the kind of guests the place would draw, Dole said.
The guests could be paying between $1,299 and $1,499 a month, depending upon the level of service they preferred, according to Mrs. Dole.
"We're testing the waters," her husband said of the pricing. "We're talking about it."
Meals would possibly be included, Mr. Dole also said.
"It's not hard and fast," Mrs. Dole said of preparing food for the guests.
Each room would have a private bath.
The couple decided to seek a council variance rather than rezoning the property from its current rural residential because they don't want it to be a commercial enterprise, but come under the same heading as a boarding house, Hodge said.
He said he believes the concept of a guest house within the historic home is a "cool idea," and the majority of neighbors living near the Antrim Home agree.
The four-acre estate and historic landmark house, which was built in 1875, are expensive to maintain, Hodge said. The guest house concept will help the Doles to continue to preserve the property, the attorney added.
Although Rosemarie Lisko, chairwoman of the graphics and zoning committee, initially pushed for delaying a decision, she eventually went along with the rest of the trustees when Hodge pushed for a vote and agreed to abide by conditions the board members should set.
Those conditions, according to President John Ehlers, are that the guest rooms have a maximum of two occupants each and that the house remains owner-occupied.
That was the plan all along, Mr. Dole said, speaking well before the lengthy discussion had concluded and the votes -- first to table the matter and then to back the council variance request -- were taken.
"We're going to be there every single day," he said. "That's my home. I've lived there since 1988."
The Franklin County Auditor's Office lists the 3.94-acre site and structures on it, including the main home and a carriage house, as being valued at $591,000.
Guests at what Mr. Dole said they want to call the Timbrook Inn would have access to the pool and patios, his wife said, as well as all but their private section of the house.
The only nearby residents who, according to Hodge, declined to sign a petition in favor of the council variance, Richard and Shirley Chapman, were on hand for last week's monthly NWCA session.
While praising the Doles as "excellent neighbors," Richard Chapman expressed worries the guest house concept might have an adverse impact on the value of their own home.
He also said he was concerned all the guests might get together for a "big bash" around the swimming pool late at night.
"We don't do that ourselves, so we wouldn't let anybody else do that," Mrs. Dole said.
Two other neighbors, Mitch Crawford and Robert J. Darragh, spoke in support of the variance request.
"I think it's a pretty cool idea, myself," Crawford said. "I'm all for it."
"To me, it's no different than if these people had five kids," Darragh told the trustees.
After a 4-3 vote in favor of tabling the request, Ehlers said, "I'd like to take care of this," and Lisko relented.
She allowed the matter to be taken up and this time the vote was 8-0 with the two conditions.