Town officials say renovations to a house on Chesapeake Street are in violation of the Dewey Beach Zoning Code. The owners of the property say town officials told them they were in compliance during construction.
Marcia Schieck and Rich Hanewinckel own the multilot rental home at 114 and 116 Chesapeake St. The property recently underwent renovations, including the installation of a pool in the front yard. Town Manager Marc Appelbaum says the pool and the fence that surrounds it are built within the setbacks of the property, and he is threatening to revoke a rental license for the compound unless the violation is remedied.
In an Oct. 3 letter to Schieck and Hanewinckel, Appelbaum said Building Inspector Bill Mears initially approved a building permit application for improvements to the Chesapeake Street property based on a survey plan that showed a 21-foot front yard setback for the pool and an 18-foot setback for the fence surrounding the pool.
Chesapeake Street property owners Steve Hayes and David Jasinski filed an April 22 complaint to the town, seeking a stop-work order for Schieck's property because, they said, changes to the property did not match the initial survey plan and were in violation of the town zoning code.
Hayes and Jasinski also filed a formal complaint to Dewey Beach Board of Adjustment, which heard the case in June. At the hearing, the board made no ruling about the property, and instead unanimously ruled that Hayes and Jasinski filed their complaint outside of the 30-day deadline to challenge Schieck and Hanewinckel’s final Feb. 28 building permit.
Appelbaum sent Schieck and Hanewinckel a letter Aug. 15, asking them to have a survey of the property conducted because of complaints from neighboring homeowners. “If I do not hear from you within two weeks of the date of this letter, I will schedule an inspection date without your input,” Appelbaum wrote.
Wilmington attorney Michael McDermott, who represented Schieck and Hanewinckel at the board of adjustment hearing, sent letters to Dewey Beach attorneys Fred Townsend and Noel Primos Sept. 16 and 17.
In his letter, McDermott said town officials notified Schieck and Hanewinckel April 23 that they were reviewing site plans for the property and Mears would conduct a physical inspection. On April 24, McDermott wrote, Appelbaum and town hall employee Jim Dedes told Hanewinckel the improvements were compliant with town code.
"Mr. Appelbaum informed my client that he could 'proceed' with the construction of the remaining improvements," McDermott wrote. He also said Appelbaum and Mears gave testimony at the board hearing that improvements to the property were compliant with town code.
“What ‘matter’ requires a ‘conclusion’ different from the Board of Adjustment’s?” McDermott asked. “Given the history and the facts above we believe the town manager is abusing his authority by continuing to harass my clients causing them unneccessary harm and undue stress.”
In his follow up letter Oct. 3, Appelbaum said Schieck and Hanewinckel refused to request a survey, even when the town offered to foot the bill.
“As a result of your refusal to provide a survey, the town, upon proper notice to you, obtained a survey that locates the constructed improvements on the property, as witnessed by town staff and both of you,” he wrote.
The survey, prepared by Foresight Services of Dewey Beach is dated Sept. 25. It shows an 18.5-foot front yard setback for the pool and a 15-foot setback for the fence surrounding the pool.
The changes are not in compliance with the town zoning code, Appelbaum wrote.
“In accordance with Town Code 117-9, Suspension or Revocation of License, this writing serves as notice that unless you present an acceptable plan to remedy the setback violations within 10 day of the receipt of this letter, your rental license for the property will be suspended,” he wrote.
In an Oct. 7 phone conversation, Hanewinckel said he had not yet seen the survey and did not wish to comment.
Schieck said town officials gave sworn testimony in June that her property was compliant with town code. "The town, for reasons that still remain unclear to us, requested to take another survey," she said. "We've cooperated with all these efforts, despite the fact we believe we're being unfairly harassed."
The board of adjustment has the power to grant a special exception for the pool, according to town code.