The Town Board cleared the way Monday night for guests to once again dine and stay at the historic Colonial Inn in downtown Hillsborough, leaving just a few sticking points to hammer out later.
The board unanimously approved a rezoning request and a special use permit for Allied DevCorp LLC to turn the nearly two centuries old property at 153 W. King St. into a restaurant with a private dining room, a bar and a conference room on the ground floor. A larger event center and four guest rooms will be on the second floor.
A new, two-story wing will provide another 18 guest rooms at the rear of the lot and connect to the main building, a patio and landscaped wedding lawn via brick pathways.
Allied representative Justin Fejfar estimated up to 100 people could occupy the second-floor event center and at least 96 could be seated in the main dining room.
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Construction could start by the end of the year.
The inn was built in 1838 and long served as a hotel and later as a popular restaurant. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Allied bought the half-acre property in January for $800,000 – $75,000 less than the list price, according to county documents.
Previous owner Francis Henry bought the inn at auction in 2001 for $440,000. It fell into disrepair as he wrestled with the town over renovations and how he could use the property. The town filed an eminent-domain action in 2014 but agreed in 2017 to gave Henry a year to sell the inn.
Sidewalk vs. parking
The board delayed a decision on the developer’s proposal to widen the sidewalk in front of the building to 10 feet for outdoor gatherings. That part of the plan would eliminate four on-street parking spaces.
Commissioners Jenn Weaver and Matt Hughes supported a wider sidewalk, while Commissioners Evelyn Lloyd and Kathleen Ferguson preferred keeping the parking spaces.
Commissioner Mark Bell said he would be OK with losing one or two spaces to build ramps to make the entrance compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. He also favors making those spaces 15-minute spots.
Weaver noted there is rarely used on-street parking just to the west of the property. Assistant Town Manager and Planning Director Margaret Hauth said the town plans to stripe those spaces shortly to make them more visible.
Ferguson said not only does she want to keep the parking, she opposes making the road any narrower in front of the property.
“It just doesn’t feel safe,” she said. “I just think it’s an accident waiting to happen.”
Details have also yet to be finalized on a loading zone to be built across the street.
Lloyd asked if Allied could provide artist renderings of the sidewalk options when it comes before the board again, possibly next month. Plans for exterior design and materials are also subject to approval by the town’s Historic District Commission.
The property has no parking spaces or driveway access, but Allied has worked out a deal with a nearby law firm. State and federal tax credits could help offset some cost of restoring the inn.
Allied may also ask for town economic development funds to help with the new sidewalk, if one is built, but it has not yet officially requested financial assistance.
In other business
Orange County ABC project: The board amended a permit for a retail operation at 109 Oakdale Drive. The original special use permit was issued for a drive-thru pharmacy and Orange County ABC asked that it be amended for an ABC store, which would not have a drive-thru operation.
Affordable housing: Jim Yamin, president of Workforce Homestead Inc., asked for feedback on his idea to build 80 affordable rental units off Old N.C. 86 between the Cornwallis Hills neighborhood and the Waterstone development. Board members expressed support for affordable housing in Hillsborough and reservations about losing that 11.5-acre parcel, currently zoned for retail development. There was no formal proposal or decision.