You could hear a pin drop Wednesday in the Earlington City Council Chambers. The tension and looming outcome of the public hearing regarding the owners of the old Hotel Earlington was papable for all attendees.
After weeks of back and forth, Blake and Brittney Card received the news they had been waiting on. Multiple Earlington residence gave positive testimony affirming the Cards and their aspirations to restore the building, and the Earlington Board of Adjustments voted in favor of the Card family.
"We got nonconforming use right now, but we are going to try to get it rezoned as residential, this was just the first step to getting the ball rolling," said Blake Card. "We're going to try to get it rezoned while we're working on it. That's the goal -- otherwise, we would have to wait for it to be rezoned, which could take months, and this just gets it done a little bit quicker."
In the past, the hotel had been permitted use as a single-family residence. However, the house has sat vacant for 12 years and may not be able to be used this way moving forward, said Hopkins County Joint
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Planning Commissions Administrative Assistant Cynthia Young.
"This property has been used both commercially and residentially," said Young. "It has been used residentially up until 2007; it has been uninhabited since that time."
Young went on to discuss the nonconforming use and how the property may be grandfathered in and be allowed residential status. Hopkins County ordinances state that residential districts will lose their nonconforming status after two years of vacancy. However, the Cards' home is not in a residential area, she said.
"Since the commercial district is not defined, we are coming to you for a determination -- can the single-family dwelling be continued as a nonconforming use," she said to the board.
Card delivered his testimony and said that he is trying to restore his home with the sole intention that it be used as a single-family dwelling.
With a stop-work order issued, Card had to request approval for nonconforming use and receive the board's permission before he could continue working on the property.
Last night's decision is the first step in getting the order removed, Card said. The board asked him what his renovation plans are for the house and what is his expected time frame. Card said that he doesn't currently have a timetable, but he will once he talks with his engineer.
"Immediately after we get back, the rear portion of the house is coming down," said Card. "Which at some point was labeled through a report by Frank Wallace (the city and county building inspector) as an imminent danger," said Card.
After the back portion is removed, Card will begin sealing the entire property and will start the rebuilding phase of their project, he said.
Longtime Earlington resident, city council member and county historian Ann Gipson said the hotel had been used as a residence for 74 years. And, at that time, she said it was never used commercially. When it was given the moniker "Hotel Earlington," it was used as a guest house, not a hotel, by West Kentucky Coal.
Gipson explained during the hearing that Earlington's city council voted Tuesday night to give the Cards an indefinite period to fix the house.
"The council has been trying to work with them the whole time, and we have tried to make this residential and do anything that we can do," said Gipson.
In the coming weeks, the Cards hope to have the stop-work order removed and want to obtain the proper permits so that they can renovate their historic home.