New business plan asked, second hearing set on Bowlingly
QUEENSTOWN — The new owners of Bowlingly Estate, Sean and Kellee Glass from Washington D.C., Key West, Fla., and San Francisco, Cal., submitted a plan to the Queenstown Board of Appeals to hold large weddings and corporate events with up to 300 guests on the estate during the week and on weekends.
The plan — which is now being reviewed by the town’s board of appeals pending a second hearing and additional information — was discussed at a public hearing on Wednesday, July 19. Residents — both in favor of and against the appeal — brought their comments and concerns to the Appeals Board for their consideration before the final vote on the Glass’ plan.
The Friends of Queenstown, a citizens group concerned about the appeal going forward said thy have gathered just under 100 signatures on their petition (approximately 1/6 of the town’s population) who are oppose the Bowlingly Estate as an “event center.”
“Our primary concerns,” said Susan Mayberry on behalf of the Friends, “are for public safety and for the preservation of Queenstown as a historic village on the Eastern Shore. Within 10 miles of Queen Anne’s County, we have many other event centers which are in better locations and are not within a residential area and historic village, where they would have deleterious impacts to the community.”
Sean Glass spoke on behalf of himself and his wife Kellee,. He said, “We think of Bowlingly as a home and are not trying to make it a primary commercial use.” Glass said they intended to hold a maximum of 15 events per year, with a maximum number of 300 guests in attendance per event. In all likelihood, Glass said the majority of the events held would be closer to 50 guests or less.
Glass also said that while they were aware of the neglect to the home and large trees surrounding the home when they purchased it — the estate was purchased on short sale — he and his wife do want to see it restored to the potential it could be. To that end, Glass said, they have hired two individuals full-time for the property and are looking for a way for the property to produce some income to offset some of those maintenance expenses. The estate is not the Glasses primary residence.
“We are sensitive to the issues of parking and noise,” said Glass, adding he was not aware until after the fact that the event held in June of this year had posed as much of a problem as it did.
“We did tell people [ahead of the event] about parking [restrictions],” said Glass.
For the Appeals Board, John Fitzgerald inquired about a designee for each event — someone the town could be in contact with prior to the event (were such permission granted) and during the event, in case a problem did arise. Preferably, the town would desire this contact person to be onsite. Initial plans suggested Kellee Glass to be the point of contact, but did not guarantee her availability on location.
The town also voiced concerns over the maximum capacity.
“Three hundred people in a town of 653 seems excessive,” said Fitzgerald. “Think about scaling that back.”
Other concerns centered around how to park and accommodate the 180 vehicles listed on the Glass’ appeal request, catering vehicles and other support equipment, trash removal, and a pathway or clearance for emergency vehicles. Questions were also raised should the Glasses consider having paying overnight guests.
According to Glass, the estate is able to accommodate 13 with sleeping arrangements and has eight bathrooms.
Joan Collier, a resident of Queenstown, said she had lived 88 years on Del Rhodes Avenue. “These gentlemen in front have asked appropriate questions,” she said of the Appeals Board. “I am satisfied either way [with their decision], good questions, which will be answered satisfactorily.”
Linda Roberson of Stillwater Bed and Breakfast in Queenstown said the town has always been open to “outsiders” citing the visitors she hosts, those who come for the Queenstown outlets, and various social events the town hosts throughout the year, including bonfires, fireworks and social events dockside, and ham and oyster roasts at the church. Parking is always an issue, said Roberson, but added that when the town is considering the appeal, she would be very offended if she were to be told she could not host 55 or 60 friends and family at her own home.
Mary Margaret Revell Goodwin of Centreville, named county historian by the county commissioners, addressed the board.
“Historic properties get demolished here in this county, maybe as often as one a month,” said Revell Goodwin. “It costs money to keep up a historic property.”
What is being proposed by the Glasses, she said, would be a tremendous use of the property, showing America something valuable about Queen Anne’s County and its historical significance to the country. Revell Goodwin did not note she believed 300 guests were too many for one event.
Many residents voiced their concerns about safety. Because Queenstown does not have a police force of its own a very real concern is guests who may become intoxicated and wander off the property, which is directly adjacent to many private homes, they said. Resoundingly, the board heard requests that any decision they make reflect a way to ensure the town remain peaceful and safe.
The Glasses have been requested by the town to submit a new business plan by Sept. 8, addressing questions raised at the first hearing, and another Board of Appeals hearing is set for Sept. 20 at Cavalry United Methodist Church.
Bowlingly was built in 1733 and is one of the oldest dated structures on the Mid-Shore.