By Bonnie Culverhouse
A zoning variance appeal by Huffman Management, LLC was denied by Minden City Council members Monday when the item failed for lack of a motion.
Jim and Kim Huffman spoke on behalf of the appeal, saying they are purchasing Grace Estate to be a bed and breakfast destination as well as an event venue. Grace Estate is located at 1114 Broadway, which is in Councilwoman Terika Williams-Walker’s district.
Jim Huffman told council members that when he took on the project, he didn’t realize the repercussions.
“I never realized in my wildest dreams that we would create the controversy that we have created,” Huffman said. “For that to our city, I say we’re sorry.”
Huffman said his family never anticipated a tax audit on his business or a policeman on his doorstep, asking if he sold alcohol to his bed and breakfast guests.
“We still graciously ask that you consider our waiver for an event center, which it currently is and currently supports that waiver,” Huffman continued. “We will conduct ourselves as good neighbors. We will do business in an orderly, kind and legal manner.”
Leslie Rainer, a District B resident of the Historic Residential Association, submitted to the council a petition of signatures against the variance that was distributed and signed in the neighborhood.
“Two different governing bodies in the city voted against this proposal,” Rainer said. “The zoning board and also the Historic Commission. The petition is made up of 65 people representing 45 households. They do not want an event center.”
During a previous planning commission meeting, the board voted to divide Huffman’s proposal, so the bed and breakfast would be voted on separately from the event center. The bed and breakfast passed, while the event center failed.
Kim Huffman thanked the council for hearing their appeal.
“We’ve listened to our neighbors; we’ve heard the issues they have of noise complaints and trash,” she said. “We won’t have a restaurant. We are looking to be able to do other things like murder mystery dinners and Mother’s Day weekends … things like that.”
However, residents of the district said the Huffman’s have not talked with nor listened to them.
“We were told that we would be contacted, and as far as I know, no one was actually contacted by the Huffmans,” said Broadway resident Julie Cavalier.
District A councilman Wayne Edwards said there has been “a lot of civil discourse” with the variance issue.
“It seems to me that somewhere there should be a compromise between the two (parties),” Edwards said. “Have you tried to work out your differences to see if we can all live together?”
Cavalier said, in her opinion, the bed and breakfast was the compromise.
“We have not had that meeting because we have not been contacted,” she added. “I don’t think it’s our job to contact them.”
Huffman said he would be willing to talk with the residents, but residents said, up to this point, no one has spoken to them concerning a meeting.
Williams-Walker said she asked Huffman to get in contact with the other residents following a council workshop.
“I asked you to get in contact with the neighbors, and at this last workshop on Monday, it was stated that either you or your wife reached out to the neighbors and no one responded,” Williams-Walker said, addressing Huffman. “Now is not the time. We are going to vote on whatever is on the agenda now. The original appeal – because you had the opportunity to speak with them, but you chose not to.”
Huffman told the council his wife walked the neighborhood knocking on doors.
“My wife spent over six hours walking and knocking on doors,” he said. “I don’t have the phone numbers of all of our neighbors. All we can do is knock on doors and hope they will open.”
When the appeal was finally brought before the council for vote, no one on the council made a motion, causing the appeal to die. It will be a year before Huffman can appeal again.
“People complain about the council (not working together),” Edwards said. “We have our disagreements but in the end, we want the best for the city. When we see discord on both sides, we’re not working hard enough.”
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