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Vote on proposed wedding venue delayed

By Amanda Raymond

amanda.raymond@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The Salisbury City Council decided to send a rezoning request that would allow a wedding venue on North Fulton Street to a committee.

Lori and Michael Dienfenbach submitted an application to the city 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 Sacred Heart Catholic Church’s property at 128 N. Fulton St. into a wedding venue called The Abbey.

The Bogle Firm is the project’s developer.

The project has three potential phases that would develop present buildings into a catering kitchen, sanctuary, reception area, garden house, on-site manager’s residence, indoor gathering space with a rooftop terrace and outdoor gathering spaces.

There would also be a support services center that would include retail business that relate to wedding functions, such as a bakery, wedding dress boutique or florist shop.

The applicants said they were not planning to demolish any buildings, but they do plan on removing the mobile unites in the driveway of the property to allow access from North Ellis Street.

If the project was approved, the applicants said they would work with the Refuge, the church that rents part of the property now, to move it out of the property.

The hours for the venue, including the sanctuary, reception area, kitchen, indoor gathering space and rooftop terrace and garden house would be from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. The hours for the support services would be 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Monday through Saturday.

The applicants presented their proposal during Salisbury Planning Board meetings on March 8 and 22.

During the meeting on March 22, the board members recommended that the City Council approve the rezoning under two conditions — Sunday hours reduced to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the support services building and any source of light on the rooftop terrace could not be visible from the second floor of adjacent properties.

A full visual screen wall will be put up on the rooftop terrace to block the view from the adjacent house.

Results of a parking study found that there are 198 potential parking spaces in the area.

Ten people spoke against the rezoning request. Most were neighbors who were worried about parking issues, noise, smoking and the retail that might move into the area if the proposed project fails.

Susan Carlton, who lives at 118 N. Fulton St., said the wedding venue would not serve the needs of the neighborhood.

“This proposal is for new use, more intensive than a church and school, creating more traffic, parking problems, possibly hindering emergency vehicle access, increase noise and toxic second-hand smoke,” she said.

Graham Carlton, her husband, circulated a petition in the neighborhood in opposition of the rezoning request.

Fourteen people spoke in favor of the project, including Lori Dienfenbach, the applicant, and her family.

Dienfenbach said she spoke with the Salisbury Police Department to have an off-duty officer on the premises when alcohol is being served.

She also said the Salisbury-Rowan Convention and Visitors Bureau confirmed that the venue could have an impact of $1.8 million on the local economy annually.

Ted Blanton, who has a law office at 228 W. Council St., said he was afraid of what might happen to the property if it is left vacant for too long.

“I’m afraid if that property doesn’t get restored, it will just deteriorate,” he said.

Councilman Kenny Hardin said he could not support the request because he was concerned about the livability for the neighbors if the venue moved into the area. He said he thought it was a great business that could possibly find a place somewhere else in the city.

Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell said she is pro-business, but also could not support the request.

“One point eight million dollars doesn’t replace a fragile neighborhood,” she said.

Councilman David Post said he wanted to get more information about the parking situation.

Councilman Brian Miller suggested forming a committee to negotiate compromises between the neighbors and the applicant.

Hardin disagreed with Miller, saying the people who spoke during the public hearing stated their positions and deserved a decision.

Post said since this was the first time the council was hearing everything at once, it was the council’s duty to collect as much information as possible to try and resolve problems for all sides.

Miller made a motion to send the issue to a committee and the motion passed with a 3-2 vote. Blackwell and Hardin voted against the motion.

Neighbors who wish to attend the committee meeting planned for May 11 at noon can contact City Clerk Myra Heard at 704-638-5224 or mhear@salisburync.gov.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.

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