B&Bs hope to cash in Piatt County

B&Bs hope to cash in Piatt County

MONTICELLO — A pair of century-old Piatt County homes could open their doors for the bed-and-breakfast crowd in the coming months after getting the all-clear from separate zoning boards.

And a third B&B that has been in development since 2016 could join them this spring.

Mike and Jennifer Quinlan's plans are to convert an 1881 farmhouse and five acres of land on the Piatt/Champaign county line into Moon Grove Farm, a small-scale farm that will eventually include a you-pick flower area and event hosting.

Another potential lodging establishment is at 304 N. State St. in Monticello.

Beth's Bungalo will rent three rooms, including a converted upstairs ballroom in the 105-year-old home. Owner Beth Seibert said it would not be a full B&B, instead more of a "bed and snacks."


Moon Grove Farm

"We've had desires for the past few years to try to do a small, farm-based business," Jennifer Quinlan told the Piatt County Zoning Board of Appeals.

"Our business plan that we have been working on is to open a farmhouse bed and breakfast," Quinlan said. "We've got three rooms we've been diligently painting in order to prepare them, and we intend to serve roughly parties of three individual rooms, or large families that want to stay and spend a weekend away from the city."

The couple also hopes to host public events in conjunction with the you-pick flower farm, which would likely operate from May through September.

Hopes are to open by May at the site located approximately four miles northeast of Mansfield. Its official address is rural Mahomet, although it is located in Piatt County.

Two neighboring land owners expressed concern about allowing the bed and breakfast on agriculturally-zoned land.

"I feel that traditionally this has been a single-family home site, and I feel that it should stay that way," said James McClure, who owns land adjacent to the Quinlans. His concern is that an area he described as a "hodge podge" of production agriculture might not be a good fit for those who'd patronize the Moon Grove Farm.

"When we add to the mix a steady stream of — for lack of a better term, urban clientele — do they fully understand where they are going to stay for the night or weekend? That any time of the day, there may be working, sprayers (aerial application to farm fields)? And we all know what sprayers do in the community."

Dwight Huffstutler, another neighboring land owner, did not specifically come out against the special-use permit for Moon Grove, but felt past owners of the Quinlan property were not fully aware of the neighborhood's agricultural ways.

"It created some problems, and that's what concerns me," Huffstutler said. "I hope that everyone understands that sometimes it's dirty, and stocks blow, and there's a lot of trucks hauling grain in and out of fields."

He commended the county for going with a special-use permit instead of earlier calls for a zoning change, since the former does not transfer to new owners if the property is sold.

County Zoning Administrator Keri Nusbaum also said the Illinois Right to Farm Act comes into play, and that "there are some protections offered in that" to farmers.

The ZBA approved the conditional-use permit by a 3-0 vote. It now goes to the county board next week for final consideration.

"We look forward to being a part of the community, and I think as we look down the road, we have a strong desire to host events, either from an educational perspective by being a field trip venue and trying to take advantage of some of the popularity of Illinois' agriculture tourism industry," Jen Quinlan said.


Beth's Bungalo

Seibert plans to begin renting rooms sometime this year after a conditional-use permit was approved 5-0 by the Monticello planning and zoning board.

"The conditional use is required by the city of Monticello zoning ordinance specific to creating a B&B operation," said city building and zoning administrator Pat Gleason.

Seibert told the PZB there was adequate off-street parking for her rooms, which include a showcase ballroom on the home's second floor.

"The house is 105 years old, and that's the era they built ballrooms," Seibert said.

The zoning request now goes before the city council on Monday.


Burnham home

Renovations continue on the 126-year-old, 6,000-square-foot residence commonly known as the Burnham home on the northeast edge of Mansfield, with hopes of having some of its rooms ready for rent in the first quarter of 2018.

"We had to slow down for some health issues," said owner Evelyn Brown, adding that the rehab is "back on schedule to open with at least one room but probably two in early spring. Which means the first of March."

The home was once owned by Charles Warren Fairbanks, who was Theodore Roosevelt's vice president from 1905 to 1909. At one time, the house included eight bedrooms on the second floor alone.

A full third floor was never finished but already has a wood floor and studs indicating more bedrooms or a ballroom were at one time considered.

Steve Hoffman is editor of the Piatt County Journal-Republican, a News-Gazette Media community newspaper. For more, visit journal-republican.com.