FARGO — City commissioners gave neighbors two more weeks to try to reach a compromise on allowing owners of one of the city's oldest historic homes to turn it into a bed and breakfast.
Although it appeared after three meetings already that there wasn't a deal, the commissioners agreed to give it more time.
Owners Roger Nelson and his wife, Margaret, said they have already been sharing the 1883 home at 611 8th St. S. with city groups such as the F-M Opera to hold some dinners and events there. However, they have had many other requests to share the beautifully restored home with others.
"We haven't been selfish," he said.
Nelson told the commissioners they want it to be "a showcase for the city of Fargo." He said they have been "doing things right" and have invested about $1 million in restoring the home that was in disrepair when they bought it 32 years ago after it had been turned into a 14-unit apartment building in 1920. It had also been a sanitarium and alcohol treatment center in its long history.
After trying to sell the home at different times for the past 15 years, they decided this year on opening the three-story home to others by converting five bedrooms for the bed and breakfast operation.
The Nelsons also asked as part of the conditional use permit, which passed the city's Planning and Zoning Commission on a 5-3 vote, to host receptions, private parties or similar activities. In an earlier compromise, they agreed to limited the attendance at events to 25 people with a 10 p.m. curfew.
Nelson added it would be for such events as baby and wedding showers or teas, as examples. He took offense to it being called an "events center" similar to the Avalon or Sanctuary.
However, neighboring residents have been objecting to the project.
Letters, emails and testimony from the neighbors have resulted in opposition that hasn't seemed to fade away.
James Baum, who lives just down the street, said the project was still turning the residence into a "commercial enterprise."
He referred to the proposal as turning it into a "hotel" and "events center." Baum said he "feels like the bad guy" but was worried about security and parking.
"Ninety-five percent would be great guests," he said. "But what about the others?"
Another neighbor, Scott Neal, said the Nelsons have been "wonderful neighbors," but there could be as many as 10 people a night or 300 a month staying there.
"At the end of the day, would you want a bed and breakfast, a hotel, an events center with up to 25 people in your neighborhood?" he asked the commissioners.
Commissioner John Strand made a motion to approve the permit, noting that the city should be "celebrating the new life and new future" for the restored home that at one time was a dilapidated apartment building. "It wasn't pretty," said Strand, who once lived nearby. His motion failed for a lack of a second.
Commissioner Tony Gehrig said he "highly doubted it" could be resolved among the neighbors, but a motion to delay it two weeks passed unanimously. Among the solutions for a possible compromise was to limit the guests per night to three bedrooms and to drop the idea of larger receptions at the home because of parking concerns.