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County objects to island 'party house'
A well-known rental house on St. Simons Island is marketed by the owners as Villa de Suenos, which translates from Spanish as House of Dreams.

But special events held on a regular basis at the site are anything but a dream to nearby residents and elected officials who have had to deal with complaints about the house in the past several years.

The venue has been discussed so often in the past year, elected officials simply refer to the six-bedroom ocean estate on the 4300 block of Sixteenth Street as "the party house."

But parties and other special events may soon end at the rental house, if county officials have their way.

A letter from the county has been sent to the lawyer representing the owners to notify them the house is being operated in violation of a local zoning ordinance.

"Marketing for the property reflects an active and intentional effort to promote the property to hold events," County Attorney Aaron Mumford said in his letter to Jason Tate, the lawyer representing the rental home's owners.

Mumford said the property is being marketed as an event venue, where a fee is charged in addition to nightly rental rates. Guests are required to rent the house at least four days, with prices ranging from $1,600 to $2,500 a day, depending on the season, according to a website marketing the site.

Marketing for the property also recommends specific commercial vendors for special events at the house, Mumford said.

"The number and frequency of events at this property are inconsistent with one-family residential use in an R-6 zoning district," Mumford said in his letter.

He said past usage and marketing of the property reflects a pattern and practice where events are frequently held at the site.

"The manner in which the property is used adversely affects the single-family residential character of the district," Mumford wrote.

"Such use is inconsistent and incompatible with one-family residential use and has an adverse impact on the residents and neighboring properties of the East Beach subdivision."

The letter concludes by asking the owners to stop the "unauthorized and impermissible" use of the property.

Jason Tate, the St. Simons Island lawyer representing the owners, Thomas "Jeff" Burton and his wife, Lee Burton, disagreed in his response to Mumford's letter.

Tate cited county zoning ordinances that he says allow the owners to rent their home the way it has been operated for nearly two decades.

"The Burtons have used and operated the property in this manner continuously since 1995 without objection by the county," Tate said in his written response. "Indeed, the county has been aware of the Burtons' use of the property in this manner, and has permitted such use without previously taking the position that such use was impermissible."

Tate said many other properties in R-6 zoning districts, or similarly zoned residential districts, "are currently being operated in a comparable manner, which have not been subject to similar action by the county."

The property owners are aware of the complaints and have taken measures in response to the county's concerns, Tate said.

County Commissioner Dale Provenzano, who represents the island, said calls about special events at the house have been his No. 1 complaint he's heard since he won the primary election for county commissioner last July.

"The county commission is very sympathetic to the East Beach homeowners," he said.

* Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about government and other local topics. Contact him at gjackson@thebrunswick, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 323.

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