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B&B expansion request tabled

Sat, Jan 20th 2024 07:00 am

By Karen Carr Keefe

Senior Contributing Writer

Niagara Falls is known worldwide for its tourism industry, but Grand Island is developing its own niche in offering several bed and breakfast options for people visiting the area to see the sites or visit relatives nearby.

Before each B&B can be established on Grand Island, the prospective owners have to obtain a special use permit to coexist within the town’s zoning rules in residential neighborhoods.

A public hearing was held at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting to consider an amendment to such a special use permit. Matthew and Cherrish Beals want to go to a three-bedroom facility from the two-bedroom bed and breakfast they now operate at 121 Amberwood Drive.

Council members voted to table the request for the amended permit, pending review by the town’s Code Enforcement Department.

Two residents spoke against the plan to expand the B&B’s capacity in their neighborhood.

Linda Harbison expressed concerns of parking and quality of life since the B&B was established.

Clay Roughsedge also is against the expansion. He said that, the last time the issue of 121 Amberwood came up at the Town Board, residents of two neighboring streets had gathered petition signatures against the B&B.

He said, “Nobody wanted this thing” except for the operators who sought the special use permit.

Roughsedge said there was “a big commotion about it” and he is thoroughly against it. He also cited traffic and parking concerns for fellow residents of the dead-end street that has 20 homes, noting the B&B has a small driveway.

One of the B&B proprietors, Cherrish Beals, addressed the concerns brought up during the hearing.

“I’m sad about the frustration that the neighbors have felt over this. It’s not my intent, and I’ve said that before,” she said. “We’re really excited to be able to rent one more room.”

Beals said they have been able to provide rooms for several family members of Grand Island residents.

She gave as an example the college students who returned to visit and stayed at the B&B because their parents, who lived nearby, just didn’t have the bedroom space to accommodate them.

Beals said their guests are also helping the Island economy during their stay: “It’s been a great joy to support the wonderful businesses we have here.” She cited Kelly’s Country Store, the Island Ship Center, Dick and Jenny’s restaurant and other Mom and Pop businesses.

She added that, as business owners, they pay the required sales and occupancy taxes that contribute to the state and local economy.

Guests are required to make reservations in advance and have government-issued ID “in the rare event that there’s ever any issues,” Beals said.

She said they haven’t had a single negative event in the four years they’ve been operating the short-term rentals. Guests describe their home as “immaculate.”

In one of several Airbnb reviews, the guest wrote, “Cherish and Matt made our stay extremely comfortable. Their home was lovely and they went above and beyond to make us feel welcomed.”

They have hosted more than 100 guests and have achieved 4.71 out of a possible 5 stars in Airbnb’s rating, Beals said.

During Town Board discussion after the hearing was closed, Council member Dan Kilmer checked with Town Attorney Peter Godfrey before explaining that petitions against a B&B don’t affect Town Board approval of a special use permit for such an establishment.

“As long as it’s within the law, we can’t, as a body, say ‘no,’ ” Kilmer said.

Council member Tom Digati made a motion to table the request for an amended special use permit, later saying that the issue would be taken up by the town’s Code Enforcement Department.

That office is charged with ensuring compliance with applicable regulations. If a B&B is found to be out of compliance, Code Enforcement is to issue a written order directing that the violation be remedied within five days. If the problem is not corrected within that time frame, the owner or operator is directed to show cause before the Town Board at a specified time and date as to why the license should not be revoked.

The town code defines a bed and breakfast as “an owner-occupied private single-family dwelling customarily used as a residence which regularly or seasonally offers overnight accommodations in not more than five bedrooms to not more than 10 tourists or transients, which includes one off-street parking space (not located in the required front yard) for each bedroom.”

In other Town Board news:

•Council members praised Highway Superintendent Dick Crawford and his department for their work clearing the roads during the snowstorm, high winds and driving ban over the past weekend.

“Our roads look amazing, and we just had a pretty big event. … Great job!” Council member Christian Bahleda said.

Supervisor Peter Marston said, “Mr. Crawford and your team, Bravo! Great job, as always. It’s almost become a mainstay here. Everybody brags about how good our Highway Department does, and you guys never disappoint.”

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