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Port Orchard clears way for bigger B&Bs

When Gil and Kathy Michael decided late last year to open a bed-and-breakfast in Port Orchard, they never realized it would be so tough battling through Port Orchard’s city ordinances.

On Monday night, the Michaels finally may have seen at least one of their battles pay off.

Having been declined a permit to operate a seven-room bed-and-breakfast by the council last November because the city ordinance allowed for only five bedrooms, the Michaels will be able to use their two additional rooms at The Inn at Port Orchard now that the council has changed the definition of a bed-and-breakfast to seven rooms or less.

The original ordinance defined any establishment that offered more than five rooms for rent as a motel or hotel, requiring different types of permits.

The council at its June 26 meeting also set up an administrative process for bed-and-breakfast owners to add rooms to seven without having to go back before council.

The Michaels renovated a 96-year-old home into the city’s first bed-and-breakfast and in November asked the city council for a special events permit to use their additional two bedrooms for weddings and receptions. They were denied, but council members did ask city staff to draft a new ordinance that would help the Michaels.

“It took us a while to get through it all,” said a relieved Kathy Michael. She said she still has other hurdles to clear with the city, but she hopes to finally open the bed-and-breakfast later this year.

The ordinance change affects only bed-and-breakfasts that are up and running or in the planning stages as of June 26, like the Michaels’ bed-and-breakfast and another owned by Lorraine Olsen.

Olsen has had troubles of her own getting the necessary permits to open her bed-and-breakfast on Kitsap Street because of parking concerns.

Olson’s application for a conditional-use permit, filed in December, has had several delays as council members have discussed current ordinance requirements that bed-and-breakfasts have one parking space available per room offered for rent.

Olson’s bed-and-breakfast is on a street where residents are limited in the number of spaces available.

Olson struck up a deal with a nearby church to use spaces in its parking lot at considerable cost, but the city attorney pointed out that Olson failed to get an agreement that also ties the church to the conditional-use permit.

Her request for a permit was continued again at the June 26 meeting because Olsen wasn’t available to appear.

Although the ordinance seems to be geared toward a specific group of bed-and-breakfast owners, it also gives more authority to city staff to approve or disapprove future permit requests.

Councilwoman Rita Dilenno cautioned that the authority might create loopholes that other future bed-and-breakfast owners could usurp in getting their own permit requests granted – something city attorney Greg Jacoby said likely wouldn’t happen.

“City staff can always deny the permit” if questionable issues warrant the request being sent back before the council, Jacoby said.

City officials continue to tout a Port Orchard downtown redevelopment study from last year that showed bed-and-breakfasts are an important aspect in revitalizing downtown. Michael said she hopes the ordinance change will bring about other improvements in that process.

“We’re hoping now as the city is moving forward with revitalization and the fact that bed-and-breakfasts are such a huge part of economic growth, that they’ll look very closely at how bed-and-breakfasts operate within the city and at codes that may need changing to make that more feasible,” Michael said.

Olsen’s bed-and-breakfast request will be taken up again at a public hearing on July 10.

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