Hillsboro bed and breakfast must be properly zoned

Staff reporter

Two wrongs do not make a right and now the county wants to work with a landowner to correct a problem.

Marion County Appraiser Cindy Magill informed Marion County Commission Thursday that there was an illegal bed and breakfast operation at 1360 U.S.-56.

The purpose for Magill to inform the commission was to seek guidance regarding the collection of additional property taxes for the unreported business.

State statute requires that residential property owners pay 11.5 percent and commercial properties pay 25 percent per the formula in assessing taxes.

The appraiser's office had contacted the owners regarding the use of two homes, each with four bedrooms. Magill said office personnel was told by the owners that they were not running a bed and breakfast.

Further investigation revealed that the property owners were indeed running a bed and breakfast and a conference center, serving more than 50 meals at a time and reportedly is booked for this year's Hillsboro Arts & Crafts Fair.

County zoning administrator and compliance officer Bobbi Strait explained that the original building permit for the second structure was approved by the former zoning administrator, and supposedly was to be used as servants' quarters. Strait explained that servants' quarters, by definition in the county's zoning regulations, cannot have a kitchen, which it has, and has to be less square footage than the original building, which it is not.

The property, which is zoned for rural residential, should not have been permitted for the second structure without gaining a zoning change.

Strait said a zoning change in the beginning would have avoided this current situation of not being in compliance.

"We have zoning to allow a rural commercial business but they didn't apply for it," Strait said.

Since Magill's contact with the owners, the owners' attorney has applied for a zoning change for the bed and breakfast and convention center. The issue will be reviewed by the county board of zoning appeals at its February meeting.

The commission approved the recouping of additional property taxes for the commercial property for 2007 and is willing to forgive the additional taxes for 2006.

Strait noted that if the property were to be sold, the zoning would have to be changed again if two families wanted to live there.