Salisbury City Council to hear rezoning request for wedding venue

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 2, 2016

By Amanda Raymond

SALISBURY — The Salisbury City Council will make a decision on allowing a wedding venue to move into the Sacred Heart Catholic Church property on Fulton Street on Tuesday.

Lori and Michael Dienfenbach have submitted an application to rezone 1.5 acres of land from an urban residential district to a residential mixed-use district with a conditional district overlay to convert the church property at 128 N. Fulton St. into a wedding venue called The Abbey.

The Bogle Firm is the project’s developer.

If the petition is approved, Lori Dienfenbach said at a Salisbury Planning Board meeting in March that she would make arrangements with the Refuge, the church that currently rents the property, to move the church out of the space.

The project has three potential phases. The first would develop the catering kitchen, sanctuary and reception area. The second would include work on a garden house, on-site manager’s residence and indoor gathering space with a rooftop terrace. The last phase would include developing present buildings into a support services center and a bed and breakfast. There are also plans for outdoor gathering spaces and a garden.

The support services center would include retail businesses that would relate to wedding functions, like a bakery, wedding dress boutique or florist shop.

The applicants are not proposing to demolish any buildings, but they do plan to remove the mobile units in the driveway of the property to allow access from North Ellis Street.

At a Planning Board meeting in early March, Lori Dienfenbach, who is from Concord, said the venue would draw about 50 percent of its couples from out of town. She said she expected about 80 weddings annually, with most occurring on Saturdays. The venue would also be open for weddings on Fridays and Sundays during peak seasons.

Also during the meeting, Dienfenbach said she planned to build upon the architecture of the church building and promote the “whole Salisbury experience,” including encouraging visitors to dine in and explore the city.

The sanctuary, reception area, kitchen, indoor gathering space, rooftop terrace and garden house would operate from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the week. The support services building would operate from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. from Monday to Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

The property would allow a maximum of 200 guests and would not allow live or amplified music on the rooftop terrace.

Many neighbors did not like the idea of the rezoning, which some said could open the door to other types of retail moving into the area if the wedding venue does not work out.

During public comment periods, they expressed concerns about parking, since there are other churches in the area that could be having events at the same time as the weddings at the Abbey.

After a Planning Board committee met with the applicant and neighbors, board member Patricia Ricks said at a meeting on March 22 that the applicants presented plans showing 198 potential parking spaces near the venue, both on- and off-street.

Neighbors have said that many of the on-street parking spaces are already used by residents and church members.

Neighbors were also worried about noise, lighting and changes to the character of the neighborhood if the rezoning were approved.

During its meeting on March 22, the Planning Board recommended approval of the rezoning with two conditions: reducing Sunday hours to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the support services building and ensuring that any source of light on the rooftop terrace not be visible from the second floor of adjacent properties.

After the recommendation from the Board, local attorney Graham Carlton, who lives at 118 N. Fulton St., organized a group of neighbors to meet and talk about the impact the venue may have on the neighborhood and circulated a petition in opposition to the rezoning.

In other council business, the council will:

  • Consider the consent agenda, which includes:
    • Authorizing the sale of a sidearm to retired Police Chief Rory Collins.
    • Adopting a Resolution of Support for the application for grant funds to design and construct Grants Creek Greenway Phase IV, which is part of the Carolina Thread Trail. If the city is awarded the grant, it will provide 80 percent of the funds necessary for the greenway and provide a connection between the existing greenway on Forestdale Drive, through Catawba College and the Hefner VA Medical Center to Kelsey Scott Park. The project is estimated to cost about $875,000 and the city would have to match 20 percent of that amount.
    • Adopting a $6,000 budget ordinance amendment to the 2015-2016 fiscal year budget to appropriate funds received from the Treasury Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture.
  • Hear a presentation from Dr. Randy Lassiter from the Rowan Museum about the 225th anniversary of George Washington’s visit to Salisbury on May 21.
  • Hold a public hearing and consider issuing a special use permit to allow a bar at Barbers & Billiards at 115 Mooresville Road. Owner Chris Earnhardt said only beer would be served.
  • Consider making appointments to boards and commissions.

The mayor will proclaim May 5 as the National Day of Prayer, May 15-21 as National Police Week, May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day, May 21 as Armed Forces Day and the month of May as National Bike Month and Historic Preservation Month.

 Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.