Mandeville City Councilman Clay Madden is leading an effort to ban bed-and-breakfasts from areas of the city zoned for residential use, arguing that people who live in subdivisions don't expect to have commercial businesses pop up next door.
Madden said the issue came to his attention when a constituent who lives in New Golden Shores learned that a neighbor had gotten a permit for a bed-and-breakfast, something that the councilman said had never happened before outside of Old Mandeville.
That's where such businesses belong, Madden said, noting that the historic district, unlike newer subdivisions, has a mix of commercial and residential properties.
He said he has spoken to a number of homeowner associations, and they agreed a ban is needed.
But the Mandeville Planning and Zoning Commission didn't support the change at its meeting, city planner Louisette Kidd said. Among other things, the commission said that B&Bs are small and unobtrusive and offer a place to stay for people coming to Mandeville for graduations, weddings and other such events.
The commission made a distinction between bed-and-breakfasts and short-term rentals, where people rent out their entire homes, Kidd said.
Ray Baas, head of the Mandeville Civic Coalition, urged the City Council to protect the residential character of subdivisions by banning the businesses. Among other things, he said, a bed-and-breakfast brings parking, traffic and safety concerns.
But Councilman John Keller questioned whether the council should put more regulations on what people can do with their property. The city hasn't had a problem with bed-and-breakfasts, he said, suggesting that the matter should be left up to subdivisions' own rules, with a change in the law if a problem arises.
But Councilwoman Lauré Sica said she lived next door to a bed-and-breakfast in Old Mandeville that was not licensed, although it would not have been excluded there by zoning rules. She said the property had loud parties, trash and portable toilets that were disruptive to neighbors' quality of life.
Council members discussed a number of options, from allowing bed-and-breakfasts in residentially zoned properties in the city's historic district to requiring compliance with a neighborhood's restrictive covenants or a letter of no objection from the homeowners association as a condition to granting a permit.
All of those options sparked objections, however. Councilman Mike Pulaski said that most homeowners associations don't have the ability to launch a legal attack when their covenants are violated. Madden said older subdivisions might not have active homeowner groups, and several speakers said that restrictive covenants might have lapsed.
Janet Fabre Smith said her neighborhood, Fontainebleau, has great covenants that are strictly enforced but that don't specifically ban bed-and-breakfasts. "We'll have to move to the Sanctuary," she said.
Dennis Thomas, a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, questioned the idea of allowing B&Bs in the historic district, noting that lots there are smaller, houses are closer together and they tend to have less insulation, which means people can hear their neighbors.
"I wouldn't want to buy a house next to a B&B," he said.
But Barry Brupbacher, who owns a bed-and-breakfast in Mandeville, spoke in favor of them. He said he made a large investment in his property and the people who stay there are often family members of Mandeville residents.
He compared his business to that of a lawyer working at home. "A whole world of commerce has come into where people live," he said.
Madden said there's a big difference between a home office and a commercial use like a bed-and-breakfast, but Brupbacher replied, "It's not a commercial use; it's a residential use."
The City Council deferred acting on the matter Thursday night after confusion erupted over some technical issues with the language of the ordinance. Madden, who had been pushing for a vote that night, agreed to table the proposed ban so City Attorney Paul Harrison could work on the wording.