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Twelve Oaks gets OK to host weddings
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The Twelve Oaks Bed and Breakfast will be allowed to host weddings and other special events moving forward after the Covington City Council approved an agreement Monday brokered between the bed and breakfast’s owner and neighbors concerned about noise and parking.

The council approved amending The Twelve Oaks special-use permit to allow it both to be a bed and breakfast and to host weddings and other events, as long as it follows a set of eight conditions that were agreed upon between the owner Nicole Greer and a group of area residents who had expressed concerns.

In 1998, a previous owner of the home at 2176 Monticello St. was granted a special-use permit to use the property as a "bed and breakfast only," meaning the home couldn’t be used for anything other than either a private residence or a bed and breakfast.

However, the home was never used as a bed and breakfast until Greer purchased the home out of foreclosure in 2011 and renovated it. She was under the belief she could host events and did so for all of 2013.

The issue came up when neighbors started complaining about noise, parking issues and even the occasional, temporary closure of Monticello Street for weddings, and it was recently discovered the special use permit for The Twelve Oaks didn’t allow events.

After a two-hour planning commission meeting last week, Greer’s attorney John Nix and local attorney Michael Geoffroy, representing the neighbors, agreed to meet to see if they could come up with a set of conditions under which residents would be comfortable with The Twelve Oaks hosting events.

The two sides finalized an agreement late Monday prior to the council meeting with eight conditions:

Scope: Besides private gatherings just for Greer, who lives on the property, all special events on the property are accessory to the bed and breakfast.

Site: Tents and other non-permanent enclosures can be erected for one-day events, but they can’t be put up more than 48 hours before the special event and must be removed within 48 hours of an event.

Parking: In addition to the parking on the property, all other parking for an event must take place at an off-site parking lot designated for the event; on-street parking is not allowed.

Noise restrictions: The sound level of all sounds or live music, whether inside or outside, must follow the city’s noise ordinance, which sets a limit of 60 decibels.

Hours of operation: Weddings and other events can only be held between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. Mondays- Thursdays; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.

Road closures: Unless there are exceptional circumstances, road closures for the property will not be allowed.

Notice: A monthly calendar of all events with more than 75 people should be published on The Twelve Oaks website and The Twelve Oaks social media sites. Any residents may request a calendar.

Large outdoor special events: Events outside with more than 75 guests and amplified sound or live music will be limited to 12 events per year and no more than two in any one month. Events can’t have more than 200 people at any one time, including vendors and residents. At least one security officer should be present during all times at the event.

The agreement between the two sides had a ninth condition that stated the other conditions would not apply to the 19 events that had already been scheduled for 2014 if the conditions were in conflict with the contracts that had already been signed between The Twelve Oaks and the private individuals.

There appeared to be some disagreement on this last condition as Geoffroy said the residents agreed to it because they wanted to be good neighbors to the bed and breakfast, but resident Eamonn Cunniffe said he had attended the same discussions over the conditions and thought the restrictions were to begin immediately.

In his motion, Councilman Chris Smith stipulated that no on-street parking would take place for any events moving forward, including those in 2014; the motion passed unanimously.

Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams apologized to citizens, saying the city dropped the ball, particularly when the council approved road closures for weddings. She said some residents felt slighted and said others had lost their trust in the city government.

Williams asked what recourse residents would have if more violations occurred. Senior Planner Scott Gaither said if residents report a zoning violation and the planning department finds one has occurred, the violation can be prosecuted through the Covington Municipal Court, which can charge fines and assign jail time. Gaither said if the same violation occurs repeatedly, the City Council can ultimately vote to remove a special use permit from the property.

In addition, violations of the city’s noise ordinance are enforced by the Covington Police Department, which is also in charge of the city’s roads and addressing parking issues. Residents can call 911 or the police department directly to report complaints.

As far as events for 2014, Nix said he only knows of one or two of the scheduled 19 events that will be more than 200 people; he said the contracts people sign to host events at The Twelve Oaks cover issues such as parking, noise and security.

Mayor Ronnie Johnston congratulated the citizens on working together to solve a difficult situation and said he was encouraged by their actions and proud of them.

The City Council discussed the issues at length during Tuesday’s council retreat trying to ensure that the kind of breakdown in communication that allowed The Twelve Oaks to illegally host events with city support would not happen again.