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Salisbury Planning Board committee to review proposal for wedding venue

By Amanda Raymond

amanda.raymond@salisburypost.com

The Salisbury Planning Board decided to have a smaller committee discuss plans for a possible wedding venue with the applicant before making a recommendation to the Salisbury City Council.

The Salisbury Planning Board met on Tuesday at 217 S. Main St.

The board discussed a district map amendment for a project called The Abbey. The petitioners, Michael and Lori Dienfenbach, want to convert Sacred Heart Catholic Church’s property at 128 N. Fulton St. into a wedding venue.

The Bogle Firm Architecture is the developer.

The property is about 1.5 acres. More specifically, the property is located along the west margin of North Fulton Street at West Council Street and extends through to North Ellis Street, according to meeting documents.

The applicants asked to rezone the property from an urban residential district to a residential mixed-use district with a conditional district overlay in order to operate a wedding venue on the property.

According to the concept site plan, the project has three potential phases. The initial phase could include developing a catering kitchen, along with a sanctuary and reception area. The secondary phase could include a garden house, an on-site manager’s residence and an indoor gathering space with a rooftop terrace. The future phase could include a support services center and a bed and breakfast. There may also be outdoor gathering spaces and a garden.

The applicants are proposing to remove the mobile units that are in the driveway of the property in order to allow access to and from North Ellis Street, according to Preston Mitchell, Planning and Development Services manager.

Mitchell said the support services center would have services that support wedding functions, like a bakery, wedding dress boutique, tuxedo rental store or florist shop.

Of the possible uses under the residential mixed-use zoning, the uses that the applicants wanted to keep were for business services, community service organizations, studio, 3,500-square-foot retail space, cultural center and multi-family dwelling.

Mitchell said staff thought the project was a good adaptive reuse of the property.

“It’s tough to find use of an old church,” Mitchell said.

Lori Dienfenbach, who lives in Concord, was at the meeting. She said they plan to build on the architecture of Sacred Heart, and they would be promoting the “whole Salisbury experience” to wedding guests.

“(We will be) encouraging the guests to ride the train in, dine, shop and explore the beautiful city before and after their wedding day,” she said.

She also said the venue would draw about 50 percent of couples from out of town. She expects about 80 weddings annually, with most on Saturdays. The venue will also be open for weddings on Fridays and Sundays during peak seasons.

Dienfenbach said the venue would have a shut-down time of 10 p.m. The church could accommodate up to 200 guests. If the project moves forward, the applicants would make arrangements with the Refuge, a church that currently rents the property, for it to move out of the space. The church said it had outgrown the space, Dienfenbach said.

Neighbors and other citizens spoke during the courtesy hearing. Most said they were concerned about parking, noise and lighting.

Rod Kerr, a minister at First Baptist Church at 223 N. Fulton St., said the church had an agreement with the Refuge when it came to parking. He said he was concerned with parking problems for 200 wedding guests, especially when the church had events on the same day.

“I just would hate for them to have disappointed customers and us to have disappointed members,” he said.

Susan Carlton, who lives at 118 N. Fulton St., said the proposed rooftop terrace would look right into her daughter’s bedroom.

“It is 20 feet from my house and at the same level as my teenaged daughter’s bedroom window,” she said.

She was also concerned with lighting pouring into residents’ properties.

Other people who spoke during the hearing were worried about future property owners tearing down the historic buildings. Some were also concerned about the retail that may go into the proposed support services center.

Planning Board member Bill Burgin said an opportunity to repurpose a property like the one being discussed does not come along often.

“No pun intended, but there’s a certain nice marriage of this purpose with this property that I don’t want to slip away here,” he said.

Burgin suggested that a Planning Board committee review the proposal with the applicants to talk things through, and also give the applicants more time to better solidify a plan for parking and the other issues.

Burgin made a formal motion for a committee to review the proposal with the applicants and it passed unanimously. The community members were invited to attend.

In other business, the board recommended that the City Council approve the naming and renaming of streets in the area of the new South Main Street bridge overpass at Cedar Springs Road. A portion of Long Meadow Drive and Southmark Drive on the southern side of the interchange was recommended to be changed to Peeler Road. The unnamed, newly constructed road was recommended to be named Cedar Springs Road.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.

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