Waynesboro is working on a sweeping set of new zoning codes, the first complete update in a generation. One of the proposed changes would allow homeowners to open bed and breakfasts in one of the city's most historic neighborhoods.
This zoning rewrite would at least give homeowners the option to apply for a permit to open a bed and breakfast. The way it is now, with a permit you could build a fraternity house, open a private club, or dig out a cemetery in between all the single-family homes.
But not a bed and breakfast.
Bill and Nickie Aldridge have welcomed guests into their home for the past 10 years.
"It's a beautiful house," said Bill Aldridge. "The neighborhood is very, very nice. And we're very happy here."
Their Tree Street Inn rises above Walnut Avenue in a 1914 historic home.
"Waynesboro needs more bed and breakfasts," said Aldridge. "We've got tons of motels, but we need more bed and breakfasts. There's only three of us in town."
The Aldridges believe that is due in part to strict zoning ordinances that do not allow bed and breakfasts in most residential neighborhoods. They were the first to cut through the city red tape 10 years ago.
"The whole process took about 8 months for us," Aldridge recalled.
The Tree Street Inn made it through. But two years ago another couple tried to open a bed and breakfast a few blocks away in their Oak Avenue home. They pulled their request to change the Tree Streets' residential zoning after a neighborhood backlash. Right now, they could get a conditional use permit to open a fraternity, nursing home or private club there, but not a bed and breakfast.
"There may be homes that could be very suitable for this type of use," said the Waynesboro Planning Commission's Terry Short.
The planning commission is finishing a revised set of zoning ordinances. It would expand the list of conditional uses for homes zoned RA-3, like in the Tree Streets, to allow a bed and breakfast by permit, and after a thorough review from the city.
"It doesn't just allow someone to open up a B&B," Short explained. "It gives them the flexibility to ask that question to the city of whether or not it's the right location."
The Aldridges believe this change will benefit their neighborhood, and Waynesboro's visitors.
"It's definitely overdue," said Bill Aldridge. "The city is losing out and has lost out on some good business, and another way to attract people."
The couple who withdrew their bed and breakfast plans in 2008 say they are still ready to open and are hopeful this zoning change will pass. A public hearing on all of the zoning ordinance is scheduled for Monday, August 9.