Dewey Beach Town Council will hear an appeal from two property owners who say their rental license was unjustly suspended.
Marcia Schieck and Rich Hanewinckel say a front yard pool at their rental property on Chesapeake Street is compliant with the zoning code, even though Hanewinckel admitted the pool does not match a drawing given to the building official before it was installed.
The town paid for a survey of the property, prepared by Foresight Services of Dewey Beach Sept. 25, which showed a final 18.5-foot front yard setback for the pool and a 15-foot setback for the fence surrounding the pool.
In an Oct. 31 letter to Schieck and Hanewinckel, Dewey Beach attorney Noel Primos said the pool violates town code setback requirements.
Primos wrote, “…the fence in this case was required to be at least 18 feet from the front property line, and the pool was required to be at least 21 feet from the front property line.”
Primos said Hanewinckel was clearly aware of the setback requirements at the time he applied for the building permit because the drawing he submitted – which was approved by Building Inspector Bill Mears – showed the pool and fence would be constructed in compliance with setback requirements.
Appelbaum sent an Oct. 11 letter to Schieck and Hanewinckel, notifying them the pool and fence were not compliant with town code.
Appelbaum said unless the property owners present an acceptable plan to remedy the violations, a rental license for the property would be suspended.
On Oct. 21, Hanewinckel sent town council an appeal of Appelbaum’s Oct. 11 notice. Hanewinckel said the pool does not violate the 18-foot front yard setbacks, and town code permits fences within the 18-foot front yard setback, subject to a height restriction for an ornamental fence. The code also requires a safety fence around pools at least 4.5-feet tall, he wrote.
In his appeal, Hanewinckel admitted the pool in the initial application is different from the pool that was later installed. “These changes, however, were expressly approved by the town’s building official,” he said.
In his Oct. 31 response, Primos said Mears never approved the changes. “The building official was never informed that the locations of the fence and the pool would be different from those indicated on the drawing submitted by Mr. Hanewinckel,” Primos wrote.
Dewey Beach Town Council will hear Schieck and Hanewinckel’s appeal at 2 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, at Dewey Beach Life Saving Station on Dagsworthy Avenue.
“Were the commissioners to overturn the suspension, it would send a message that the requirements of the code mean nothing, and that the town will not enforce those requirements even in response to the duly submitted complaints of citizens of the town,” Primos said.
The property first became suspect for zoning violations in May. Neighboring property owners David Jasinski and Steve Hayes requested a board of adjustment hearing to appeal the building official’s decision to allow changes to the Chesapeake Street property. Among other things, the neighbors argued the pool and fence had been built into setback requirements.
The board of adjustment dismissed the appeal at a June hearing, saying it was filed too late. Town officials said the Sept. 25 survey was prompted by complaints from property owners on Chesapeake Street.
Property owners file FOIA complaint
Schieck and Hanewinckel filed a Nov. 4 freedom of information complaint to Attorney General Beau Biden, accusing Dewey Beach Town Manager Marc Appelbaum of withholding requested documents.
“These would include communications between town officials, town commissioners and members of the public, including appellant David Jasinski, concerning our property,” the couple wrote. Appelbaum cited attorney-client privilege as the reason he did not include some documents, Schieck and Hanewinckel said in the complaint.
The couple also said Appelbaum refused to include documents related to building compliance issues because it would be unduly burdensome.
Appelbaum also redacted the names of some residents in the documents he provided; Schieck and Hanewinckel said he was not at liberty to do so.
In the complaint, Schieck said she tried to go to town hall and inspect four building permit files onsite, but she was told the requested documents would take 15 days to produce. “These documents should be readily available at town hall and be produced with little to no disruption,” the couple wrote.
Schieck and Hanewinckel said they would submit one final FOIA request for the documents they had not yet received and for an onsite inspection of the four building permits. “We ask that your office support expedited fulfillment,” the couple wrote.