Dewey homeowners challenge Chesapeake Street renovations

Board of Adjustment dismisses complaint
Renovations to 114 and 116 Chesapeake St. in Dewey Beach have raised concerns from neighboring homeowners. BY KARA NUZBACK
June 18, 2013

Dewey Beach homeowners are contesting recent renovations to a neighboring property on Chesapeake Street.

Marcia Schieck and Rich Hanewinckel were recently challenged by homeowners Steve Hayes and David Jasinski for expanding a multilot rental home at 114 and 116 Chesapeake St. and installing a pool in the front yard,

Hayes and Jasinski say the pool and the fencing that surrounds it were built within the setbacks of the property, and a fifth bedroom was illegally added to the compound. The men say when they brought their complaints to the town, officials failed to take action. On April 27, Hayes and Jasinski filed a formal complaint to the Dewey Beach Board of Adjustment.

“Everything that's happened at these houses was not permitted work,” Jasinski testified at the board's June 12 hearing.

At least nine property owners sent letters to the Board of Adjustment in support of Schieck and Hanewinckel's renovations, saying they served to beatify properties that had previously gone into disrepair.

Hayes and Jasinski came to the hearing with photographic evidence to prove their case – that Schieck and Hanewinckel had failed to post building permits, built into setbacks, violated the town's tree ordinance, ignored parking requirements and added a fifth bedroom to the complex without a permit.

Mike McDermott, attorney for Schieck and Hanewinckel, said sworn testimony would show the final building permit, issued Feb. 28, was posted on the property Feb. 29. McDermott said if the property owners had not followed the provisions of the permit, Mears would have issued an order to halt construction.

But the evidence was never presented because the Board of Adjustment unanimously ruled Hayes and Jasinski filed their complaint outside of the 30-day deadline to challenge the Feb. 28 building permit.

“The board has appellate jurisdiction over a limited area,” said Attorney Mike Hoffman, who represented the board.

According to town code, the board can hear appeals where it is alleged an administrative official erred in any order, requirement, decision or determination; the appeal must be filed within 30 days of the decision.

Jasinski argued there was no way to know when the permits were issued because they were not displayed on the property, and much of the work was outside the scope of the permits, which the appellants could not have known until construction was complete.

Jasinski said he and Hayes took their grievances to Building Official Bill Mears and Town Manager Marc Appelbaum; they later appealed to the Board of Adjustment because they were not satisfied with the town's inaction.

At the hearing, Hayes argued the complaint was filed within 30 days of Mears' decision not to act on the concerns he and Jasinski raised.  Mears testified he spoke to Hayes and Jasinski towards the end of April.

The board debated whether the 30-day statute could begin after the administrator decided not to take action. McDermott said the written appeal did not identify any specific decisions or dates in April, only the Feb. 28 building permit.

About midway through the hearing, Appelbaum provided an April 22 email from Jasinski, which detailed his concerns with the property. “That was the first I became aware of the issue,” Appelbaum said. “Mr. Mears was copied on the email.”

Appelbaum said he met with Mears, town attorney Fred Townsend and town employee Jim Dedes to discuss Hayes' and Jasinski's concerns with the property on Chesapeake Street.

Mears said after the meeting, he checked the property and decided all construction was compliant with setbacks.

Board member Rick Dryer said Appelbaum should have presented the email as evidence before the hearing, and the board should not take it into consideration.

After the hearing, Appelbaum said no one asked him to provide any of his correspondence related to the appeal. He said testimony and the debate over the 30-day statute of limitations prompted him to bring the email to the town attorney's attention. “I showed it to the attorney, and the attorney asked that it be read into the record,” Appelbaum said.

After three hours, Hoffman suggested a recess so board members could review the evidence. He said the board should schedule another hearing date to rule on whether it had jurisdiction over the case, then, if necessary, examine the merits of each argument. “I just think it's complicated and it's worth a closer look,” Hoffman said.

Board member Phil Davenport noted the extensive paperwork involved in the case. “It's the biggest pile of papers we've had in a long time,” he said.

Board member Don Ziegler said it was not the board's responsibility to seek out information; the appellants should have provided specific decisions and dates in their complaint.

Dryer said he thought the appeal was not filed within the 30-day deadline. “They have other ways of going, avenues to go through,” he said. “I do not believe we need another meeting.”

Board Chairman Len Read agreed, saying Hayes and Jasinski provided only the Feb. 28 building permit date in their written complaint. “We have to go by the date of the permit,” he said.

Hoffman said an official written decision of the Board of Adjustment would be released within 30 days.

“We’re not going to give up”

“We were very prepared to talk about the evidence in the case,” Jasinski said after the hearing. “We had no notification there was any potential question over jurisdiction.”

“We feel like we're being stymied,” Jasinski said.

Mears testified he issued a permit for construction to be done on one of the bathrooms in the complex, but Jasinski's evidence shows the large bathroom was actually turned into a small bedroom to accommodate more people.

“They never even applied for a bedroom,” Mears testified. “It was improvement of a bathroom.”

Hayes said according to the board's ruling, a property owner could obtain a building permit, and then wait 30 days to begin construction, and no one would be allowed to challenge the permit.

Jasinski asked, “Where is the recourse when the building official will not enforce the terms of the building permit?”

Both men said they were disappointed the board decided not to hear the case. Hayes said he and Jasinski plan to continue to petition the town to check the property for compliance with setbacks and building permits. “I'm just frustrated because they won't come out and measure it,” Hayes said. “We're not going to give up.”

Schieck and Hanewinckel did not testify at the hearing and could not be reached at press time.

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