The future of the historic Dearing Mansion bed-and-breakfast on the West Side of St. Paul was cast into doubt Friday when the St. Paul Planning Commission voted 10-1 to revoke owner Scott Kramer's conditional-use permit.
A murder-themed New Year's Eve party he hosted, which was promoted on social media and for which Kramer charged admission, was the third time he's violated conditions prohibiting special events at the majestic brick home at 241 George St. W.
Without income from running a bed-and-breakfast, Kramer has said he doubts he can afford his mortgage payments.
"I made mistakes," Kramer said after the meeting. "I was hoping that in this process I could correct misinformation. I will likely have to sell. It would be a shame for this architectural gem to no longer be available."
He added that he is undecided on whether he will appeal the decision to the St. Paul City Council.
In an earlier interview, Kramer said the New Year's Eve party was never intended to be more than a private party for friends and acquaintances. He charged admission, he said, to recoup some of his costs for food, beverages and entertainment.
To members of the Planning Commission's Zoning Committee, which voted 4-3 last week to recommend revocation, Kramer was essentially seeking a third chance after two previous violations.
"After much deliberation, the Planning Commission voted to revoke the conditional-use permit because there were no other consequences for noncompliance, such as fines or suspension," said Anne DeJoy, first vice chairwoman of the commission. "We explored ways to avoid revocation. But in the end, the permit holder violated conditions more than once."
Kramer said he had never intended to get into the B&B business. He and his wife bought the house more than a decade ago with the idea of restoring it and living in it for the rest of their lives. But after a divorce Kramer needed to find a way to afford the house, which cost $450,000 to buy and another $275,000 to restore.
Operating it as a bed-and-breakfast was a way to pay its not-insignificant bills, he said, but he needed a conditional-use permit to do that in a residential neighborhood. He was granted a permit in October 2014.
But, in May 2015, a neighbor complained that Kramer was hosting parties and renting and advertising the home's six bedrooms. His permit allowed him to rent out only four rooms and did not allow him to host events. He agreed. But, in summer 2016, city officials received another complaint that he was again hosting parties. In January 2017, the Planning Commission modified Kramer's permit to allow six bedrooms to be used, but specified that no weddings, retreats, corporate gatherings or parties could take place.
Kramer said he followed those conditions, even though it slashed annual income from $25,000 to $1,500. Then came the New Year's Eve party, to which Kramer said the general public was not invited.
On Friday, several Planning Commission members talked about the fairness of doing nothing in the face of repeated violations — violations for which other residents would not have been given extra chances. Now, despite the support of several neighbors and area historic preservationists, Kramer may lose the ability to continue running his home as a business. And, possibly, his home.