The Montgomery County Planning Board has asked its staff for revisions in a new zoning category that would permit bed-and-breakfast establishments in parts of the county, rather than sending the proposal to the county council, as stated in Saturday's Real Estate section. (Published 12/15/87)

The Montgomery County Planning Board is urging the County Council to legalize the growing number of bed-and-breakfast establishments in the county by amending its zoning law to allow guest houses as a home occupation.

The planning board on Thursday sent a proposed zoning ordinance to the council for ratification that would allow transient guests in single-family homes provided that nearby parking was adequate and that no more than three rooms per home were used for paying guests.

"A lot of these places are already operating without permission. They're just keeping their heads down," said Joan N. Yamamoto, zoning analyst with the county planning department.

Yamamoto said the American Bed & Breakfast Association lists at least five establishments in Silver Spring, Chevy Chase, Garrett Park and Bethesda among its members. "Many other illegal places aren't in the guidebooks, but they advertise in certain travel magazines or newspapers," she said.

Sarah Sonke, director of the association, which represents about 8,000 bed-and-breakfast facilities nationwide, said new ordinances are being produced across the country as jurisdictions recognize the role such establishments play in the development of a region.

"Bed and breakfasts are fast becoming a tool for bringing in more tourists," Sonke said. "They help promote economic development." Loudoun County is an example of one local jurisdiction that recently passed an ordinance to encourage the bed-and-breakfast industry. "Almost nobody goes to Loudoun unless they have a horse or want to do some hunting. Yet it is a lovely historic area, and their new ordinance encourages people to open their homes to visitors."

Sonke said that last year she taught a class at Montgomery College on how to start a bed and breakfast and 40 people enrolled. "When they found out it was currently illegal, all but two said they were not interested in pursuing the idea. That's one reason this legislation is a good idea."

Yamamoto said some Montgomery residents have complained about existing bed and breakfasts and have asked for some controls in residential neighborhoods. "The main thing we're looking at is parking," she said. The proposed ordinance requires one parking slot for each room used for a paying guest.

This could present a problem in areas where there are not adequate driveway or on-the-street parking spaces, Sonke said.

Sonke said that in October the District approved an ordinance to allow 70 or more "homestays," or bed and breakfasts. Concern surfaced about parking in the Kalorama area, so an ordinance was passed to protect the neighborhood.

"Ironically, most visitors to Washington don't bring cars at all," she said. Sonke said it is important for residents to realize that most of the people interested in running a bed and breakfast are retired couples looking for supplemental income.

Yamamoto said: "These are not commercial establishments, but homes with occasional paying guests." A larger inn that is not a full-time family home would be covered by county laws governing hotels and motels and be required to follow county health regulations governing food preparation and fire safety.

The County Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed zoning next year before voting.