Thursday, December 13, 2012
Plano’s historic Carpenter House forced to discontinue hosting parties
Way to harsh a buzz...
PLANO Weddings and anniversary parties have been held at the historic Carpenter House in downtown Plano for decades, but those days are now over.
A zoning change requested by Stanley and Pat Black, the property's owners, was denied at Monday's city council meeting. The change would have classified the property as an assembly hall, allowing the Blacks to continue to hold weddings and other parties at the house. The parties have been held in violation of the city's zoning ordinance for the past 20 years, eight years before the Blacks purchased the house.
"I still don't believe this is the correct usage," said Mayor Phil Dyer, who voted against the zoning change along with councilmen Pat Miner and Lee Dunlap. "... I love this house and I think the Blacks are wonderful people, but I just don't think we should turn our back on a residential neighborhood."
Even with the denial, the property retains its multi-family zoning and could be operated as a bed and breakfast, a usage that was approved in 1992. However, to do this, the owner must live on the property, something the Blacks do not currently do.
Some neighbors of the Carpenter House, located at 1211 E. 16th St., cited noise and a lack of parking as reasons why the council should turn down the zoning change, charges Pat Black denied Monday night. The Blacks, Pat said, were willing to work with city to limit the number of guests and the hours of operation and eliminate amplified music, as well as instruct guests to use the parking lot at city hall to prevent parking on neighborhood streets.
"My family and I now are poised at our very own fiscal cliff, and the word of the hour is compromise," Pat said prior to the vote. "We have bent over backward to make certain that the few neighbors' complaints about traffic noise and parking have been addressed.
"We are ready to move forward and continue to try and keep the Carpenter House maintained in a style in which our clients and neighbors have become accustomed."
The Blacks were supported by a number of speakers, many of whom have held events at the Carpenter House. They told stories about the special nature of the 114-year-old house, saying if the zoning change was not allowed they feared for the house's future.
Speaking on behalf of several neighbors who opposed the zoning change, Randy Wright said allowing such a change would be burdensome on those who live near the Carpenter House.
"As I work on this, I just can't see why our city council would want to provide special government assistance to the applicant at the expense of 40 or 50 neighbors' peaceful and quiet enjoyment of their homes," he told the council, adding that if the Blacks choose to sell, he hopes it will be to a buyer who wants to live in the house rather than use it as a place of business.
The zoning change gained the stamp of approval of the city's Heritage Commission and the Planning and Zoning board. However, because of the number of letters of opposition submitted by neighbors, a supermajority, 75 percent, of the city council was required for approval.
The motion to approve received only five votes, one short of the six required for passage. One of those who voted to approve was Pat Gallagher, who said he felt it would be a travesty to turn down the proposal.
"This council has a pretty good record of protecting neighborhoods," he said. "... To me the evidence has been vetted by some professionals -- the Heritage Commission. They understand the historical district and want to protect the historical district. It has been vetted by Planning and Zoning. It has had a 10-year record of working, and now all the sudden the sky is falling?"
Documents provided by the city show that 61 weddings have been held at the house since 2010. Pat said she and her husband would likely look to sell the property, saying the multi-family zoning allows for multiple uses including apartments or a halfway house.
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