There's no room at the inn for government nonsense
In pursuing our dream to run our bed-and-breakfast, the Greenlake Guesthouse, we have learned that hard work and an entrepreneurial spirit...
Special to The Times
In pursuing our dream to run our bed-and-breakfast, the Greenlake Guesthouse, we have learned that hard work and an entrepreneurial spirit aren't enough. Instead, to successfully operate a business in Seattle, it's necessary to have the government on your side.
To create our B&B, we found a beautiful house in the Green Lake area that was a perfect gem in the rough. The home is located on a high-traffic road directly across the street from Green Lake Park and has breathtaking views of the lake.
To bring the home up to current safety and code standards and to better accommodate our family and guests, we carefully added two dormers that were consistent with the home's original Craftsman style. After completing the remodel of our home, we excitedly opened the doors to the Greenlake Guesthouse in August 2004.
Our business has thrived. Despite the fact that we're a new B&B, we've enjoyed better than a 50 percent occupancy — a wonderful response that shows there is a demand for neighborhood B&Bs.
Now the city of Seattle is claiming we violated the law by making "exterior structural alterations" to our home to accommodate the bed-and-breakfast. But the fact is, we made improvements to our home that are similar to those made by many other neighbors. Even with the fully permitted changes, including the two modest dormers, our home looks like any other home in the neighborhood. Nothing about our home stands out as a B&B.
But certain neighbors complained to the city that our bed-and-breakfast brought people into our very busy neighborhood that they didn't know. Considering we are located across the street from one of the busiest parks in Washington, we don't know how our few well-mannered guests would stand out from the constant stream of joggers, bicyclists and the like.
Although the City Council recently and unanimously passed a law permitting new bed-and-breakfasts to open in single-family residential zones in Seattle, the city caved in to pressure from a handful of our neighbors to destroy our dream.
We were in disbelief that the city would seek to punish us and close a business that is clearly providing a valuable service to visitors of our city. The city's interpretation of its law means that we can never use our home as a bed-and-breakfast now that we have lovingly remodeled it.
To make matters worse, if we are forced to close down our business and sell our home because of the city's interpretation of the law, a new owner could purchase our home and open a bed-and-breakfast without being affected by our supposed violation of the law — all because he didn't remodel the home himself. This makes no sense at all.
The new interpretation of the law should make anyone considering opening a new B&B nervous. The interpretation is completely subjective and puts entrepreneurs in a vulnerable position should any neighbor raise even the most petty complaint.
Now we've filed a lawsuit to stop the city from shutting down our bed-and-breakfast. Our goal is to defend our constitutional right to run our business free from nonsensical government decisions.
The city's actions are harming entrepreneurs by bowing to those unhappy few who don't like a law that was fairly enacted. That's not the way our government should work. If a citizen is unhappy with a law, he should petition the government to change the law, not demand the city shut down a business that is operating under that law. We should have a government that is concerned most of all with protecting our rights — including our right to earn an honest living.
All we want is to stay in our home and continue to serve the community doing what we do best. This bed and breakfast is our American Dream.
Julie and Blayne McAferty are the owners and innkeepers of the Greenlake Guesthouse in Seattle. They are represented by the Washington Chapter of the Institute for Justice, www.ij.org
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