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    Wednesday, August 10, 2022

    Controversial owner of event venues purchases two Norwich houses

    Norwich — The businesswoman embroiled in a bitter dispute with the city over operation of an unpermitted events venue has purchased two other large residential properties, including a permitted bed and breakfast where a recent loud Halloween party drew a complaint from an abutting neighbor.

    Natalie Huey Min Lee, owner of the controversial Mount Crescent House events venue at 270 Broadway, on Oct. 16 purchased the Lathrop Manor bed and breakfast at 380 Washington St. under the name Renaissance Quest LLC for $465,000 from former owner Sheryl Middleton.

    Last week, she also purchased a large single-family house at 138 Mediterranean Lane, also under Renaissance Quest LLC for $595,000 from former owners Steven and Linda Becker.

    The city Planning and Neighborhood Services Department has issued a notice of violation and a cease and desist order to Lee for using the Mount Crescent House as an unpermitted short-term rental and major events venue. Lee counters that she is attracting business and visitors to Norwich and said she planned to purchase more properties to expand her short-term rental offerings.

    Lee said Friday these two purchases are just part of an acquisition plan for her Renaissance Quest business plan for the “resurrection of the city of Norwich.”

    Like the Mount Crescent House, the historic 1765 Lathrop Manor at 380 Washington St. in the Norwichtown Historic District is permitted as a bed and breakfast inn. But zoning regulations for bed and breakfasts require the owner or a property manager to live in the house and to provide the morning breakfast. Lee routinely rents the entire Mount Crescent House as a short-term rental or major events venue, with renters bringing in catered meals. Police have responded to several complaints of loud noise, fireworks and on-street parking, including a large party bus.

    Greg and Jessica Boyd of 374 Washington St. abutting the Lathrop Manor, complained to City Planner Deanna Rhodes last Monday, that the bed and breakfast hosted what they described as a college fraternity-type party Halloween night.

    “A loud party with dozens of young people transformed our normally quiet historic street into what seemed like a fraternity row on a college campus,” the Boyds wrote in an email to the city. “Beer cans still litter the yard and street. Under normal circumstances, this alone would be very troublesome. However, the current COVID-19 situation and numerous out of state vehicles witnessed only compound my concerns.”

    Greg Boyd said Thursday the vehicles came mostly from Connecticut and Massachusetts. Loud music, vulgar language and “people coming and going at all hours,” punctuated by the noise of horns and the chirp of locking doors outside their bedroom window.

    The couple have a 4-year-old son. Greg Boyd went over and warned the partygoers to “tone it down” or he would call police, he said. That worked for about a half hour, he said.

    “We are a family next door,” Jessica Boyd said. “It’s not a college campus. We want to stay safe, and we want to keep our son safe.”

    Lee said Friday the Saturday renters “lied” about their intentions for the house. She said she rejected requests for both the Lathrop Manor and Mount Crescent House for Halloween parties.

    “It will not happen again,” she said, “by setting restrictions and screening more carefully booking inquiries.”

    City Planner Rhodes responded to the Boyds that the city does not allow short-term rentals – although there are dozens currently operating in the city – and the planning office is working with city leaders to propose some type of licensing process that would regulate the operations.

    The Boyds’ complaint will be investigated by city Zoning Enforcement Officer Richard Shuck, who had issued the cease and desist order against the Mount Crescent House. City officials are considering legal action against Lee’s operation of Mount Crescent House.

    Lee has openly defied the city enforcement actions, calling city officials “corrupt” and “stupid.” In 2018, Lee filed a lengthy federal civil suit against the city, its attorneys, former Assistant Building Official George Gardner and even Connecticut Superior Court in a dispute over a blight violation the city had lodged against a house Lee owns on Cliff Street. She alleged an extensive conspiracy against her and her business operations. The judge dismissed most claims and later ruled against Lee in the final remaining complaint.

    Lee has threatened to bring further claims of corruption and conspiracy against city officials pertaining to their actions against her businesses.

    c.bessette@theday.com

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