Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Oconee County Planning Commission Recommends Approval Of Bed And Breakfast For Historic House In Bishop

***New Owner Says Small Café May Be Added***

The Oconee County Planning Commission on Monday night recommended approval of a new plan for the historic Seymour D. Fambrough House in the center of Bishop.

Owner Ted Christensen told the Planning Commission he intends to convert what is often referred to as the Bishop House to a seven-room bed and breakfast.

The small building at the front of the property, which was a bank, will be restored and converted into novelty historical structure, he said.

Christensen said in his narrative that the properties, which he purchased on Aug. 29, is in disrepair and he will have to invest first in restoration.

Previous plans for the building, built in 1908, called for use of the first floor for a family style restaurant with seating for 80 persons.

Those plans were never realized because of the expense of building a septic system to accommodate that large of a facility.

The new plans also will rely on a septic system, but the kitchen in the initial phase will be used to provide only for guests in the bed and breakfast. Christensen said he might add a coffee shop and ice cream parlor at some point in the future.

The plans now go before the Bishop City Council, which is expected to take up the recommendation of the Planning Commission at its meeting on Nov. 13.

Bishop House Request

Ted Christensen and his wife, Donna Hobson Christensen, purchased the 2.5 acre lot through TDC Hospitality LLC from Robert and Maureen Nordgren on Aug. 29 for $500,000, according to county tax records.

Old Bank, Bishop House, Post Office, Hello Lois

Donna Christensen is the proprietor of Hello Lois, a home goods store located nearly next door to the Bishop House.

Ted Christensen told the Planning Commission on Monday that “we would like to convert this beautiful, historic home into a bed and breakfast inn with seven rooms.”

“Initially the kitchen in the back would be used to provide breakfast for the guests,” he said, “but in the future we thought about the possibility of having a small café.”

“We could possibly do breakfast and lunch for community residents,” he said.

He said the site might be used for wedding receptions and community events in the future.

In 2014, the Bishop City Council rezoned the 2.5 acres from Residential to Business to allow for an 80-seat restaurant with residential quarters above.

Christensen is asking that the zoning category remain B-1 but that the new use for a bed and breakfast and restaurant be approved.

Community Support

Donna MacPherson spoke in favor of the request at the hearing on Monday, saying the “downtown Bishop area is really starting to thrive” and “we’d like to see the house used and in a beautiful capacity. It's a beautiful home.”

Maria Ramon, representing the Historic Bishop Committee, said “we have a lot of free community events planned in Bishop. It's always a question of where to meet and where to park, and this home would provide that as well as some tax revenue for our little beautiful historic area.”

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 house, currently in disrepair from lack of upkeep,” according to the rezone application, “has spacious rooms, high ceilings, wide passageways, and large windows that make for an inviting and unique bed and breakfast.”

The home will be renovated with “up to seven rooms, four on the second floor and three on the main floor,” according to the narrative. “Additionally, the main floor of the home will feature a foyer, sitting room, library area, restrooms and other spaces typical of a bed and breakfast.”

Future expansion could include “catering of events, special food services and limited-service restaurant, coffee shop, ice cream parlor, or specialty snack shop,” according to the narrative.

The old bank at the front of the property will be “renovated and utilized as a novelty historic structure that is incorporated into the overall property,” according to the narrative.

The Planning Commission recommended the rezone request, which is scheduled to be voted on by the Bishop City Council on Nov. 13.

Other Action

The Planning Commission also recommended approval of three other rezone requests on Monday night. Each of these is scheduled to be considered by the Oconee County Board of Commissioners at its meeting on Nov. 7.

Property owners Marsha D. Rogers and Melissa L. Finerty asked for modification of the concept plan for a little more than two acres of land on Hog Mountain Road east of Goat Farm Road currently zoned for Office Institutional Profession use.

In 2003, the rezone called for an office/business condominium complex of two structures, and the current request is for a single building for a medical office.

Michael Ash asked to be allowed to subdivide 10.4 acres at 1160 Maxey Road south of Hog Mountain Road and west of Elder Road into four lots. The property currently is owned by Bessie Turnbull.

Ash, who has property on Berta Drive near the Turnbull acreage, said he wants to purchase the property to create four lots, one for each of his children.

William Ross, who developed the nine-lot Chestnut Glen subdivision off Chestnut Hill Road, is asking to be allowed to incorporate a small amenity area into his 2.9 acre lot.

Ross said the amenity lot has never been used and all of the residents of the subdivision were in favor of reconnecting the land to the larger Ross lot from which it had been carved.


The video below is on the Oconee County YouTube channel

The meeting begins at 8:34 in the video.

The Ross request is at 11:37 in the video.

The request from Mike Ash for the Turnbull property is at 14:34.

The Christensen rezone is at 23:49 in the video.

Rogers and Finerty rezone request is at 34:16.

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