The Braselton Planning Commission is recommending the Braselton Town Council approve the request to rezone the Braselton-Stover House property to commercial to allow for continued operation and expansion of the popular special events venue while allowing the historic residence to become a funeral home.
Jack Frost, owner of Memorial Park Funeral Homes and Cemeteries, has asked for the zoning change to general commercial from the current residential. He has a contract to purchase the property from Marvin and Mary Stover.
Representing Frost, attorney John Stell said, “The property needs to be rezone property” to reflect existing the commercial use (in the 2008 banquet room addition). He said the growing trend is to have a funeral home and a special events venue to complement each other. He noted that Frost is currently building an events venue at Memorial Park in Gainesville.
Stell said the opportunity to acquire the Braselton-Stover House would eliminate the plan to construct a new facility on Broadway Avenue/Ga. 124, where the Town Council last year approved Frost’s development of a cemetery adjacent to Westview Cemetery, where members of the Braselton family and others are buried. Stell indicated that customer questions have been responded to and Frost’s acquisition of the property would ensure that repairs, needed because the house is not being used, would be made.
“The historic character of the home would be preserved,” Stell said.
Frost also responded to several questions from planning board members about how signage would be handled, parking and other traffic impacts.
If the events center is set up as a chapel for an afternoon service, it can accommodate 150-175 people, and special events, usually weddings, are primarily on Saturday evenings, so no conflicts would be anticipated.
Three of the planning board members voted to recommend approval of the rezoning. Planning board members Ed Price and Tony Price were not in attendance for the meeting.
Winder resident Dorie Douthit expressed concern about the possibility of a funeral at the same time her family is planning a special event next year. Frost said funerals would be scheduled around special events, which are scheduled months in advance.
Lynne Roetzer expressed her concern about the impact on the Braselton Police Department. She asked if the addition of a funeral home would put an additional burden on police related to traffic control, which would precipitate the need for additional funding.
Police Chief Terry Esco said the Braselton-Stover House contracts with off-duty officers to assist with parking cars and security for events when alcohol is served but the department is not “personally involved.” However, on-duty officers would be assisting with funeral escorts within the town’s limits.
“There is not a traffic problem there,” Esco said.
Frost said his other funeral homes hire off-duty law enforcement officers.
While a concept plan was included with the application, it is not accepted as a condition of the rezoning, according to one of the two staff conditions. The development plans will require review and approval by the planning department. The other approval staff condition requires that future uses of the property be limited to a funeral home and those uses permitted in the Tier 3 downtown overlay district. Neighborhood commercial zoning district uses would need special use approval before development begins.
The Braselton Town Council will consider the planning board recommendation at its May 5 meeting. A public hearing will convene that day at 7 p.m. in the Braselton Police & Municipal Court Building, located at 5040 Ga. 53 in Braselton.