City will move forward with Stovall House social club project

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After hours of debating city councilors decided to approve a project that would transform the historic Stovall House -- a staple of Bayshore Boulevard since 1909 -- into a social club.

Council chambers were packed Thursday night, with dozens on many different sides speaking passionately to councilors about the possible impacts of a renovation and expansion of the home.

The plan is being led by Oxford Exchange honcho Blake Casper, who wants to turn the 2.6-acre property into a private all-in-one eating club, presentation hall, yoga studio and bar.

There would also be five guest suites and eighty parking spaces.

Concerns range from parking to traffic to street safety to alcohol being served in a what is considered to be a quiet neighborhood.

"All this increased traffic will increase safety concerns of all," said resident Lance Connors. "Whether they be bicyclists or pedestrians using the sidewalk in front of the private membership business." 

Those in favor say the project will benefit businesses and secure the future of the historic house.

"We will protect the neighbor's peace and privacy. We are bringing the best talent and materials to what will be a one-of-a-kind concept. A social club like no other, where members and guests can enjoy spectacular, culinary, visual and spiritual arts," said Casper.

But his statement came with a warning.

"If we fail to get it approved tonight, we will put the property back on the market, and we will get to see what the next owner will do."

Some in favor expressed concern that if the project is not approved, the lot could be sold and split into pieces or the house leveled and replaced by a residential tower. 

Those in favor wore white shirts in solidarity.

"Commercial development is not compatible with my single-family neighborhood," said resident Mary Estes. "Alcohol has no business being served two doors from my house."

City councilors heard speakers for more than three hours. The next hearing will be held on Sepember 20.