Plans are on hold for a restaurant in the center of Bishop as the resident of the historic Seymour D. Fambrough house seeks funds for a $75,000 commercial septic system to accommodate the development.
Blyth Biggs, who is living with his family on the second floor of the Victorian-era, Queen Anne style building at 4851 Macon Highway, is seeking community support to finance the required septic system.
Biggs has launched a Go Fund Me campaign through Facebook with plans to open the restaurant in what is being called The Bishop House in August of this year.
|Bishop House 2/7/2015|
Plans call for a small, family-style restaurant on the first floor of the building, which also will be used as an event venue. The rear of the lot, with open lawns and large pecan and oak trees, will be used for outdoor events.
The restaurant will have water service provided by the Oconee County Utility Department, but the county does not provide sewer service to Bishop.
Keli Hinson, district environmental health director for Oconee County Environmental Health Services, rejected a site plan submitted for The Bishop House in September of last year, and the office is waiting on a resubmission.
Bob Smith of Smith Planning Group told me late last month that he has no doubt that a suitable plan can be approved for the restaurant.
The primary issue is the $75,000 cost, according to Smith, who is working on the project.
Smith Planning Group is a land planning, landscape architecture and civil engineering firm with offices at 1022 Twelve Oaks Place, east of Butler’s Crossing.
Zoning changes for the restaurant were approved by the Oconee County Planning Commission and the Mayor and Council of Bishop last spring, and plans had been for the restaurant to open in July or August of last year.
The narrative for that rezone stated that the restaurant will use the 3,500-square-foot first floor of the Bishop House, with seating for 80 persons.
Biggs, his wife, Diana, and their children planned to live on the 2,684-square-foot second floor, according to the narrative, and Biggs told me they are already living there.
Smith told me that the Biggs have held off building the kitchen for the restaurant pending approval of the septic system.
Own Lease Agreement
The property is owned by the estate of R.T. and Betty S. MacPherson.
Bruce MacPherson, son of R.T. and Betty MacPherson, told me last month that he has a lease-purchase agreement with the Biggs that runs for five years from when it was initiated in late 2013.
MacPherson’s parents had lived in the house.
The house was built in 1908 by S.D. Fambrough, who, with his brother, W.M. Fambrough, operated a business in Bishop selling lumber and shingles and buying and selling cotton, according to historian Celestea Gentry Sharp.
Sharp speculates in her 1996 history of Bishop (Bishop, Georgia; Wolfe Publishing, Fernandina, Fla.) that the 1908 Fambrough house may incorporate a three-room house on the lot when it was purchased by Fambrough.
The state is pushing the county to revive plans for the widening of Macon Highway (U.S. 441) and construction of a bypass of Bishop to preserve its historic downtown.
No Alcohol Served
Since Biggs and his wife announced plans for The Bishop House restaurant, the county has passed a liquor-by-the-drink ordinance, following overwhelming approval by voters in November of a referendum authorizing such action.
The county ordinance does not apply to the county’s four cities, which would have to conduct their own referendum before passing such an ordinance. At the end of last year, Bishop only 168 registered voters.
Bishop also has not authorized the sale of beer and wine in restaurants, which the Mayor and Council can do without a referendum.
Biggs told me the changes in the county’s liquor law has had no effect on his planning for The Bishop House.
“Alcohol sales have never been on the radar for us,” he said.