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Adults-only hotel near Cumming advances
Does not need commission approval with smaller acreage
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A proposal to build a Belamere Suits, an adults-only hotel, between Antioch Baptist Church and The Place of Forsyth County only needs to be approved for a building permit by county planning staff and does not need to be approved for a sketch plat by county commissioners. - photo by Jim Dean

CUMMING -- A proposed adults-only hotel that was brought before Forsyth County commissioners last spring is moving forward, and it will not need commission approval this time.

Zoning Attorney Ethan Underwood said it was determined that Belamere Suites, the proposed hotel, only needs a building permit approved by county staff for the development on Antioch Road, which runs between Hwy. 9 and Pilgrim Mill Road.

“A sketch plat is not required, so Belamere Suites has moved forward with a building permit,” Underwood said, later adding that sketch plats are not required, “as long as the land disturbance is less than 5 acres and the property that is applying for the permit is less than 5 acres, then a property has been deemed to be properly zoned, has been zoned for years and that the use is appropriate.”

A sketch plat is a detailed drawing of the proposed development.

Underwood said the property will operate similar to another location in Ohio.

“Belamere Suites has been around for about 15 years in Perrysburg, Ohio,” he said. “It is a child-free couples retreat. It’s very similar to a large-scale bed and breakfast, but it provides services such as catering, flowers, wine, just things to enhance a couple’s romantic getaway.”

The property was discussed last year and was to go before the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners for approval before the applicant requested it be tabled.

According to county zoning documents, the previous application called for the development of 6.7 acres, while the current application is for 4.7 disturbed acres on 5.3 total acres.

The hotel has drawn the ire of neighbors, including members of Antioch Baptist Church, which sits next door to the property. The site is between the church, the nonprofit The Place of Forsyth County and Ga. 400.

“It’s within 50 feet of our church,” Rev. Travis Bridgeman said. “If it’s child free, well we have children that play in the backyard of our church, and also the subdivision that adjoins on the other side has several hundred children playing, and we just feel that an adult establishment of any type kind of taints our community and changes the complexion of our neighborhoods.”

During a commission meeting last year, Underwood said he heard misrepresentations of the property.

“Four weeks ago, I sat in this first pew and listened to someone accuse [the owner] of facilitating illegal activity at his business that’s been in operation for 11 years,” he said at the time, noting it has even won awards from Trip Advisor and family magazines.

“He’s been accused of preposterous allegations,” he said. “Let’s just be blunt — someone sat here and accused him of facilitating prostitution and drug use. Can you imagine your businesses being accused of facilitating prostitution and drug use? It’s ludicrous and defamatory and it’s wrong.”

Bridgeman said the church was involved with the public participation process last year, but learned about the current plan indirectly.

“The proposal was originally for the hotel to be built adjacent to our property and the commissioners were going to have to vote on it,” he said. “On the day of the vote, the attorney contacted them and said they had decided to table the issue, so the commissioners tabled it and it was our understanding that it could not be brought back up unless the commission brought it up, so we felt that the issue was dead.”

Underwood said public participation was not required for the permit.

When the zoning was discussed last year, opponents signed an online petition and spoke out at meetings, but Bridgeman said there was little the church could do now but pray.

“We’ve spoken with attorneys, and they say as long as they’re in compliance with the zoning,” he said, “and it doesn’t require a commission approval, there is nothing we can do legally.”