Loudon Regional Planning Commission asked Christina Shurina to get more technical information about a property at 813 Mulberry St.
The building was a residence but is now located in a commercial zone. Shurina, the current owner, appeared before the board seeking approval to rent the house for use as a restaurant.
Russ Newman, planning director, said on-site parking is available and the property was sufficient to serve a capacity of 16 people. The potential tenant will serve weekday lunches and Friday and Saturday dinner parties.
"She is converting a house to a commercial building and needs site plan approval for parking in the backyard of the property," Newman said. "There is more than enough area to get the minimum required parking area."
Commissioners had questions about drainage and whether a gravel parking lot would be acceptable or preferred.
"Paved parking is not in the budget," Shurina said. "We had not planned to pave it. The tenant is trying to budget for a second restroom."
While paved is not a requirement of the zoning ordinance, the board had authority to require it as part of the site plan approval.
Commissioner Ken Brewster said his concern was getting in and out of the property safely. He also said he felt the commission needs to be consistent.
"We always required paved parking before and consistency is the only leg we have to stand on in court," he said.
Commissioner Carlie McEachern voiced worries about traffic. "When it comes to ingress and egress, the house couldn't be in a worse place for rush time," McEachern said.
"This tenant is barely going to be able to make rent," Shurina said. "She wanted a house-type atmosphere and she has been persistent, but there is no way she is going to be able to pay more. I need to get somebody in there.
"I invest in Loudon," Shurina said. "It has been empty for over a year ..."
Commissioner John Cardwell said the packet submitted to the board did not contain adequate information. "We need a better plan," Cardwell said. "Personally, I need more information to be able to make a decision."
Bill Fagg, Loudon Public Works director, said the house sits low on the property. "If you black-top the parking lot, that will stop drainage."
Commissioners noted that the property could not revert to residential. Rondel Branum, building official, said the city in the past has allowed a house in a commercial zone to remain residential until it has been used as commercial.
"Are you trying to tell me the house is unrentable?" Shurina asked.
The potential tenant, Connie Stone, operates The Dwelling Place at 401 Wharf St., but wants to relocate in a more home-like facility, Shurina said.
"I'm not saying that," Cardwell said. "I'm saying I don't know. We need an accurate site plan."
Newman recommended denying the request pending submission of a site plan, telling Shurina, "You will have to hire an engineer to resubmit a site plan for commercial, or find a residential tenant."
Site plan approval ordinarily is a 30-day process to allow the planning office time to review and make a recommendation.
Chairman Hamil Carey said the commission would try to expedite the process if delay would cause a business hardship. "We could have a special called meeting if you get it reviewed and have the comments on it," he told Newman.
In an unrelated matter, Cardwell reported to the commission that additional changes will be needed in the proposed Temporary Use Regulation Ordinance, which has been discussed and considered for more than two years.
Loudon City Council has not been able to agree on requirements for yard sales. Cardwell said that section will be removed for now and the proposed ordinance resubmitted to the city. It may be addressed at a later date as an amendment, he said.