Wyoming City Council will hold a public hearing July 19 on a proposal to permit the property at 333 Oliver Road (known as the Stearns House) to operate as an owner-occupied bed and breakfast. The change in the property has been requested by potential buyers who would like to run a five-guest room B&B at the historic location.
The public hearing will take place at Council’s regular Monday meeting at 7 p.m., the first meeting to be held in council chambers at 800 Oak Ave. after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted earlier this summer. The Planning Commission has recommended the change to the Stearns House as a beneficial asset to the community and a means to allow the house to continue as a private residence while providing for flexibility in its use.
Current owners Kay and Thomas Landers have lived in the home for nearly 20 years. For the last seven of those the home has been for sale, with limited inquiries from potential buyers who want to use it exclusively as a single-family home. They have had more than a dozen potential buyers who have shown interest in operating a B&B on the site, however. Now in their 70s, Kay Landers says it is no longer feasible for her and her husband to continue to live there and maintain the large house and grounds.
The Stearns House has a storied history in the community and is the largest home in Wyoming at more than 14,000 square feet. It was built in 1906 by Edwin R. Stearns, whose father George Stearns was a founder of the Stearns & Foster Company, which manufactured mattresses at a mill in Lockland. Edwin Stearns lived in the house until his death in 1914.The house was occupied by Stearns family members until 1998. Kay and Thomas Landers bought the house in 2002 and have been the only people outside the Stearns family to live in the house.
Designed by famed architect Alfred Oscar Elzner, the house remains largely original and includes details such as Tiffany lighting fixtures, marble and Rookwood tile fireplaces, quarter-sawn oak woodwork, and a built-in pipe organ. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. Today, the house sits on 5.5 acres and includes a carriage house. It is surrounded by more than 10 acres of wooded land, much of which was once owned by the Stearns family. In 2001, this land was donated to the City of Wyoming by heir Margot Stearns, and is known today as Stearns Woods. The land is preserved in the city’s Green Acres Trust and has undergone incremental ecological restoration over the past 10 years.
At the time the land was donated, Margot Stearns asked that the house remain a single-family home, says Community Development Director Megan Statt-Blake. However, City Council enacted a change that allows consideration of a B&B, which would enable the house to remain residential, while accommodating a limited commercial use.
Landers says she has loved living in the house due to its historic past and the beautiful details the home’s period architecture offers. She wants to see the house preserved for future generations, and a buyer with an appreciation of its history is essential in order to make this happen.
“It’s been wonderful living here,” Landers says. “It does require an understanding of homes of this period, however, as well as an ability to manage the upkeep.”
Landers adds the potential buyers are very interested in the house’s history and have the resources to invest in the property to maintain it at its best and support a well-run bed and breakfast.
Wyoming’s zoning allows bed and breakfast establishments to operate under a special permit after a zoning change in 2009, following input from the community during the master plan process. In 2011, Twins’ House B&B was opened at 272 Compton Road, although it has since ceased operations as a B&B, however. Any B&B established in the community must receive prior approval and obtain an annual special use permit, as is the process now underway for the Stearns House, says Statt-Blake.
During the July 19 hearing, City Council will seek input regarding any concerns that could impact the neighborhood. In examining and recommending the change to the property, many neighborhood concerns have been addressed by the Planning Commission, says Statt-Blake. For example, there will be no guest access to the property through Glenway Avenue, due to the street’s narrow layout. The guests at the establishment would be limited to 10 at one time, mitigating traffic and impact to the surrounding residents. In addition, any improvements to the Stearns property would have to be reviewed through the Architectural Review Board and the Historic Preservation Commission and then approved by City Council to comply with existing historic property preservation rules.
“There are many layers to the protections for this property,” says Statt-Blake, noting that the city and local residents have taken steps over the past 50 years to protect Wyoming’s historic homes from reckless development.
Once City Council hears public input at the hearing July 19, Council can either vote yes or no to the proposal that evening, or push the matter to the August City Council meeting for further consideration and a vote.
Statt-Blake says that if the B&B were approved in July or August, it could potentially be up and running within a year.