Salisbury Planning Board recommends approval of wedding venue

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 23, 2016

By Amanda Raymond

The Salisbury Planning Board has recommended approval for a wedding venue on North Fulton Street.

The board met on Tuesday at 217 S. Main St.

The board recommended approval of a district map amendment for the project, called The Abbey, under two conditions: limiting Sunday hours, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., for the support services building and the source of any lighting on the rooftop terrace not be visible from the second floor of adjacent properties.

The board first discussed the venue at a meeting earlier this month. Michael and Lori Dienfenbach asked that the property be rezoned from an urban residential district to a residential mixed-use district with a conditional district overlay. The project will convert Sacred Heart Catholic Church’s property into a wedding venue. The Bogle Firm Architecture is the project’s developer.

The property is at 128 N. Fulton Street, along the west margin of North Fulton Street at West Council Street and extending through to North Ellis Street, according to meeting documents. It is about 1.5 acres.

The project had three potential phases. The initial phase would include working on a catering kitchen, along with a sanctuary and reception area. The second phase could include creating a garden house, an on-site manager’s residence and an indoor gathering space with a rooftop terrace. The third phase could include developing a support services center and a bed and breakfast.

At the March 8 meeting, when the proposal was first presented, community members were worried about certain aspects of the project, specifically issues with parking, lighting and noise.

Board member Bill Burgin suggested that a smaller committee review the proposal with the applicants and any neighbors who wanted to attend.

Since the meeting on March 8, the applicants have limited the site’s uses to include only single family dwelling, bed and breakfast, professional services, studio, retail of 3,500 or less square footage, meeting facility and religious institution.

The applicant also limited the requested uses to specific buildings on the site plan.

The venue, including the sanctuary and reception area, kitchen, indoor gathering space, rooftop and garden house, would operate from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. The support services would operate from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, with the additional 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. hours on Sundays.

Preston Mitchell, Planning and Development Services manager, said the support services center could have services that support wedding functions, such as a bakery, wedding dress boutique, tuxedo rental store or florist shop.

In addition, there would only be a maximum of 200 guests allowed on campus at one time. The rooftop patio will have a full visual screen wall along the south side of the building to accommodate the house adjacent to the terrace. The venue will not allow live or amplified music on the rooftop patio.

Patricia Ricks said the applicants presented plans that show 198 potential parking spaces near the venue, both on-street and off-street.

“As far as the committee was concerned, (the applicants have) done due diligence in providing spaces and with them having some type of transportation that will go to the different hotels,” Ricks said.

Board Chairman Carl Repsher opened another public hearing.

Local attorney Graham Carlton said he was concerned about the rooftop terrace serving alcohol and the potential retail that would move into the support services building.

“With the closing of the YMCA, the demolition of K-Town Furniture and the closing of the administration building, we’ve actually gotten … less intensive in that neighborhood. It’s a very quiet neighborhood now,” he said. “By introducing this possible retail would just intensify that.”

Karen Hobson, executive director for the Historic Salisbury Foundation, was also concerned about the incoming retail, especially for the Ellis Street Graded School Historic District.

“All we ask is that you consider the neighborhoods as you look at this kind of intensive commercial space,” she said.

Ed Clement, founder of the Historic Salisbury Foundation, asked that the board be sensitive to the neighborhood.

“Nobody speaks for the neighborhoods much,” he said.

He also said many of the other non-residential properties in the neighborhood had off-street parking, while most of the parking for the Abbey would be on the street.

Susan Carlton mentioned that delivery trucks will probably park on the one-way street. She was also worried about what might move into the retail spaces if the project was unsuccessful.

“Just wondering, would you want this retail in your neighborhood, in your backyard?” she asked.

Repsher said the wedding venue was a good adaptive reuse.

“Of all the adaptive reuses I could imagine, this one preserves the character of the neighborhood better than any other one I could think of,” he said.

Board member Thomasina Paige said she though the idea was “philosophically beautiful,” but was worried about the parking situation, the economic viability and what bringing in retail will do to the surrounding neighborhood.

Mitchell also mentioned that under the amendment, any removal of the buildings or adding any square footage to any of the buildings on the property is not allowed.

Earlier in the meeting, board member Josh Canup said he liked that the venue was close enough to the downtown area that it did not seem unusual for retail spaces to be there.

Board member Bill Wagoner said the area was unique. Because of the churches in the area, and the school’s administration building that used to be in the area, the neighborhood has handled large community gatherings.

Canup moved that the plan was in line with the city’s Vision 2020 Comprehensive Plan and recommended approval of the plan with the conditions. The motion passed 6-1, with Paige voting against the motion.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.