After a short deliberation at its meeting Monday night (Oct. 14), the Washington Town Council unanimously approved White Moose Inn owner Jim Abdo’s request to allow the on-site manager at the soon-to-open inn to live two doors down at the nearby Pullen house, rather than at the hotel itself.
Abdo, as the Inn at the Ridge, LLC, was originally granted a permit Aug. 13, 2012, to operate a hotel of up to six rooms, on the condition that there be on-site residential management present when there are paying guests.
Monday night, Abdo approached the council asking if Christopher Myers, the manager he’s hired to oversee the inn, could actually reside “about 65 feet away” in the Pullen House. “We have made accommodations for on-site management [at the inn],” said Abdo, “but there’s a lot more room for a young family starting off [in the Pullen house].”
Abdo said Myers “will stay in the house if justified,” though there will be a phone line going to the Pullen house where Myers can be reached 24/7. “It’s a pretty fluid situation,” Abdo admitted, “but this makes the most sense right now.”
As for the rest of his plans for the Pullen house, Abdo stressed they are still a work in progress, and exact plans have not been set. “We’re just dipping our toes in the water here,” Abdo told the council, “and we just don’t know yet.” Abdo did mention that he hopes to have the inn open for business by Dec. 1.
Vice-mayor Gary Schwartz pointed out that the Pullen house is not connected to the town’s sewer system, but that Abdo had already paid the necessary connection fees and that the hookup would be made soon.
The council unanimously approved Abdo’s request, 6-0. (Council member Patrick O’Connell was absent.) Mayor John Sullivan warmly welcome Myers (and his fiance) to the town, joking that he’ll “be reducing the average age here significantly.”
The council then turned the discussion to two upcoming events at Avon Hall: a potential music festival in May and a bonfire on Halloween.
The music festival, Sullivan said, is the brainchild of Ben Jones and Alma Viator, who described it as a celebration of the Americana genre with multiple spots throughout the county hosting live bands. The concert — tentatively scheduled for next May 17 — would last from noon to 5 p.m. outdoors, before moving into the RAAC Community Theatre for a few more hours (which, as Wendy Weinberg noted, can only hold about 200 people).
Sullivan said Jones had approached him about using Avon Hall as a central location for the festivities (including hosting a number of bands) and had met with County Administrator John McCarthy about the idea as well. Jones also said the festival would be much smaller than the “Dukes of Hazzard”-related reunion/music festivals he organizes, one of which attracted more than 5,000 people to the county last year.
(Jones, of course, played Cooter Davenport on the long-running “Dukes of Hazzard” TV show.)
The council members seemed amenable to the idea but had several questions they wanted to see addressed before making a formal decision. Both Mary Ann Kuhn and Daniel Spethmann wondered about the number of attendees and where they would all park.
“The No. 1 question is how many people can be at Avon Hall?” wondered Spethmann.
Spethmann also pointed out that, as part of the ongoing project to restore the property’s pond, the last of three herbicides was scheduled to be sprayed at Avon Hall around that time, meaning sections of the property would need to cordoned off.
Kuhn also wondered about charging a rental fee for use of the property, pointing out that Jones’ earlier festivals paid “a substantial fee” for use of its venues.
“I think it’s great use of Avon Hall,” began Kuhn, “I’ve always thought it would be a good place to have something like this, but we need to define it more.”
The Halloween bonfire, however, wasn’t met with nearly as much scrutiny, as the council agreed it sounded like a good idea — and a rekindling of a Washington tradition. Sullivan said Hunt Harris had approached him about hosting a Halloween bonfire on the Avon Hall property.
The bonfire would start around dusk, Sullivan said, and parents and kids could use the stub street next to the county administrator’s office to easily get to and from the fire. Harris also said the town used to have bonfires like this years ago, and he’d like to revive that tradition.
“I think it sounds like a great idea,” Sullivan said. “If I was a little kid, I’d want to go to a bonfire.”