CONYERS - A couple seeking to turn their south Rockdale home into a two-bedroom bed and breakfast now faces a vote by the Board of Commissioners after last week's public hearing.
Terri and Reuben Alexander have lived at their home at 2724 Sunday Road for the past decade and, facing retirement from Reuben Alexander's medical profession as a physician assistant, decided to try and open a small bed and breakfast.
The Conyers-Rockdale Planning Commission decided against recommending the permit in a 4-3 vote at the June 11 meeting. That was the second time the Planning Commission had heard the matter, since a technicality made their first vote invalid.
At the June 23 public hearing, the Rockdale County Planning and Development staff recommended approval of the Alexanders' special use permit, with five stipulations.
Those conditions include: a professional architect be involved in the expansion of their home for the two bedrooms, the existing guest bathroom not be used as part of the bed and breakfast, no more than four guests at any one time, that the property not be used as a place of assembly, banquet hall or events center, and if the permit is issued no development be carried out until all the necessary permits and approvals required are obtained.
During the June 23 public hearing, heard before by all three Rockdale County commissioners, two members of the public spoke against the permit - Raljean Henderson and Don Meyers - and two spoke in favor of the permit - Bishop Ruth Smith Holmes and attorney Silvia Delamar.
Delamar spoke in favor of the application and likened the opposition to the application as similar to the opposition the school board faced when they changed the school calendar to a balanced calendar with more distributed vacation time. "It didn't seem like a good idea [at first], but it definitely benefitted my life and the life of those around me and probably many of you in this county."
Holmes said the Alexanders have high standards and the type of people attracted by a bed and breakfast would be desirable visitors. "When you talk about a bed and breakfast, you're talking about something very concise. There's a certain type of people that look for those. They aren't looking for a hotel. They're looking for something quaint."
'That's why this is something good for this community. I think it's a plus, actually... I don't believe this will be detrimental to the neighborhood."
Henderson, speaking against the application and representing the New Lake Estates community and Alexander Lake Rural Society, said "Believe me when I say there is no fear associated with the possibility of a bed and breakfast in our neighborhood. Our main concern is the possibility that if one business is allowed to redevelop on Sunday Road, others may follow in its place. If the bed and breakfast proposal is approved, there is nothing to stop future businesses in the area because the precedent has been set.
Don Meyers, also speaking against the application, asked, "These may not be the folks that own the property five years from now. What happens to the licensing then, does it go with the property?
He said, "I personally am not for the bed and breakfast as such, the way it's proposed. But if the board is going to look at it as potential approval, it needs to be absolute lock down that there are no celebrations, no parties. It has to be laid out very clear, these people will absolutely lose this license."
In response, Ruben Alexander said "My wife and I have not proposed any changes to the environment at all... It's a beautiful area, that's the reason I moved to the property... Everyone who comes in my home and on my property, they experience the feeling of peace. I feel that is the peace of God. I would like to share that peace."
"I am looking to own the property five years from now, ten years, and willing the property to my children. I have the opportunity to live anywhere I so choose. And I so choose to live in that community in order that I may grow old in that community, my wife and I may live our life out in that community.
"Regarding the zoning, this has been part of the zoning since 1995, with revisions in 2004 and 2006. We're simply saying here we are daring to exercise a proposal for that. We won't be moving any trees or disturbing the environment in any way."
After the meeting, Reuben said, "We're not doing something that's not able to be done by law... Some [neighbors] felt that we didn't tell them before. I shared with them, if you were going to build on your house, it doesn't matter if I like it or not, it is based upon the laws of the land."
Terri added, after the meeting, that she has had a few neighbors begin changing their minds after they heard about the details of the Alexanders' plans. "If you listen to what we say and you look at the plans, we're not talking about disrupting the community. We're making changes in our home," she said. "You're not just going to show up and stay there. You have to be screened. It is our home. We do have daughters. I'm a woman. I'm not going to let just anybody come up in there."
The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners will have a final vote on this issue at its July 14 voting session.