GOVERNMENT BRIEF: BZA denies Upper Salt Creek Road tourist home

The Brown County Board of Zoning Appeals denied a special exception for a tourist home on Upper Salt Creek Road last month.

The petitioner, Alan Peterson, told the BZA that he and his family bought the home in August. They had already been renting it as a two bedroom tourist home when it was discovered they were not compliant with the zoning ordinance. Peterson said they were not aware they needed approval to operate the tourist home.

“It was not a lack of respect. We simply didn’t know,” Peterson said.

The plan was to rent the home through Airbnb and use that money to cover the mortgage as well as use it as a getaway for his family who live near Indianapolis.

Within the first week of the home being on Airbnb it was booked 15 times. Peterson they had not rented the home on Airbnb after the initial week of bookings.

“We felt guilty. They were coming from Michigan and Tennessee. We didn’t want to cancel,” he said.

Peterson reportedly spoke to former Zoning Inspector Brian Faulkner about purchasing the home, but Faulkner told Planning Director Chris Ritzmann that Peterson did not mention turning the home into an Airbnb rental, Ritzmann told the BZA at the Oct. 27 meeting.

The home is also located 961 feet away from another tourist home. The county’s zoning ordinance requires tourist rentals be located no closer than 250 feet from an existing home and 1,320 feet from another tourist home.

If circumstances do not allow a separation of 1,320 feet from another tourist home then the distance may be reduced if buffers like terrain and wood reduce the impact of the proposed tourist home on the other existing one.

BZA members expressed concern about how close the tourist home was to an already existing one.

“I am sorry that these folks with good intentions bought this place, but as a business it’s on the business owners to know the rules,” member Debbie Bartes said.

“This does not fall in the guidelines with a tourist home being 961 feet to the south of this home. I feel bad for them, but I would be inclined to say no.”

Member Donna Lutes said the realtor who sold the Peterson family the home should have told them about the process to operate a tourist home here. She said since the home sits on a hill she would not have a problem with approving it.

Peterson noted that there was a 70 foot ravine between the tourist home and the other one to the south.

“It’s very heavily wooded. I can’t see any other house from our house,” he told the BZA.

BZA member Randy Jones he was “concerned about the lack of due diligence that I think was done by the petitioner,” which placed the home in a non-compliant status.

BZA President John Dillberger said he was “very sympathetic” to Peterson and that it was unfortunate the realtor did not communicate the rules for operating a tourist home when handling the sale.

“You can’t automatically buy a home in Brown County and expect to use it as a business,” he said.

Dillberger said the reason the tourist home ordinance includes limitations on how close two tourist homes can be near each other is to “reduce the impact of businesses in that area.”

“Every time we make a decision it sets precedent and if we would set this kind of precedent we would get more tourist home applications closer than a quarter mile,” he said.

Lutes said she often sees listings from realtors who are not from Brown County advertising a home as a “great tourist home.”

Granting a special exception would not be a “remedy” to that situation, Dillberger said.

The BZA denied the special exception with Lutes voting against it.