Dawn Rye | Writer
Last week the Monroe Town Board and citizens addressed concerns regarding property issues.
Board member Troy Melloon said the first item was Tim DeWitt’s building permit.
“I’m not a perfect person. I need to have an apology. The conditional use permit had errors on account of the board and on account of myself. These errors have been pointed out. The ordinances in the affect if there are errors made that we can revoke a permit,” noted board member Brad McCoy.
McCoy made the motion to revoke DeWitt’s conditional use permit on account of errors made by the council. McCoy then provided a statement that revoked DeWitt’s conditional use permit granted to him during the March meeting.
Melloon said prior work violated several ordinances and the board asked DeWitt about each of them, including lot size, his foundation and guidelines of structures and costs.
DeWitt questioned if he falls under the grandfather clause and Melloon told him yes.
DeWitt noted by the time he finishes with his house; he would not exceed the replacement cost of the home. He explained that a three-bedroom trailer replacement cost $50 to $70 per square foot. DeWitt said the old square footage of the home was 910 with an average of $60 per square foot, which is $50,000 divide by two for a total of $28,000. He commented by the time he finished, the home would be under $28,000. DeWitt explained that he is not even $10,000 deep, so he still feels that he has the grandfather clause.
McCoy said to him it seems to be an unfair ordinance; however, it is the ordinance. He noted that DeWitt has admitted to placing the dumpster on public property and feels this has no barring for continuing the building permit process. McCoy said the board is redoing the March meeting.
McCoy explained since the ordinances were adopted in 2014, everyone in town meets the grandfather clause. He said DeWitt is grandfathered in until he is proven not. McCoy noted if DeWitt has proof that he is still grandfathered in and keeps the grandfather clause, then the lot area requirement doesn’t apply to DeWitt. He said the front yard setback is 25 feet and with his trailer in the same location, which doesn’t meet the criteria.
McCoy said if DeWitt has his grandfather clause, the setback does not apply to him. McCoy noted in his opinion regarding the foundation he doesn’t believe that refers to a trailer.
DeWitt said the city ordinance states the requirements for a trailer house.
McCoy explained that no manufactured home placed within the city limits of Monroe might exceed 10 years from the date of manufacture. He said he doesn’t believe this applies to DeWitt because he didn’t bring a trailer into town. He said he is remodeling an existing trailer.
McCoy said the grandfather clause is an essential item of the violation. He commented that everyone knows that he is not an attorney and is trying to do the best he can to do this correctly. He noted this is not easy. McCoy explained the board has to follow the words written and DeWitt demolished the trailer down to the frame. He read, according to the ordinances, any structure destroyed beyond 50 percent of the replacement cost.
“We have to look into the words on how this ordinance was written,” commented McCoy.
DeWitt commented it is replacement cost, not market value.
McCoy noted the ordinances don’t define what replacement cost is. He explained insurance companies consider footage of the structure and what it would cost to replace that structure with a new structure.
Melloon said the council believes it looks like DeWitt did not destroy to the extent of more than 50 percent. He noted when it comes too moving forward; the board needs to issue DeWitt the permit that he had prior.
Resident Mike Feste explained he was worried about the seven-foot setback because DeWitt had a dumpster on city property full of stuff. Feste said while DeWitt was tearing up city property, the council members didn’t seem to care.
He explained the permit required for demolition is separate from a building permit. He said there is demolition with a building permit, which makes sense; however, the destruction is when someone demolishes something down to nothing. He noted DeWitt did that because he had the frame lying in the grass and destroyed the structure, which is why he brought in two more frames.
“He destroyed everything that was there. What he is using from the trailer house that he destroyed is some twisted metal. I’m mean that is all he is using on that trailer house,” commented Feste.
Feste said the manufactured house was removed from the foundation and then placed back on the foundation. He noted if DeWitt wants to call it a trailer house, then it exceeds the 10 years. He said 50 percent of the replacement cost is not factoring in depreciation.
“To use new pricing is just, it doesn’t even make sense,” commented Feste.
“You guys are going to do whatever you want anyway. What I say doesn’t really matter. You guys already made up your minds. And that was a nice little skit you had,” said Feste motioning to the group.
Gene Berg, who lives in Monroe, noted that with insurance, whenever he has insured something, it is based on the value at the time.
He explained insurance is based on replacement costs; they will replace it with a similar structure.
Feste noted the council stated they talked to the lawyer after last month’s meeting and asked if someone asked the lawyer about this? He noted he would like some clarification.
McCoy said the lawyer didn’t say much, to “tell you the truth.”
Feste continued, “What did you ask him?”
McCoy said he didn’t have that information printed out but when he contacted the attorney, it was a long time ago and the attorney was very vague.
Feste asked if the council contacted Patrick Andrews with SECOG (Southeastern Council of Government)?
McCoy said he had not.
Feste commented that he consulted with Andrews shortly after this happened. He said once the structure was demolished, it ceased to be a trailer house.
“Those are his exact words and it has reached its end of use,” noted Feste.
DeWitt said, for example, if a resident would replace the shingles, side a house and replace windows on a property purchased for $30,000, there goes the grandfather clause.
He asked how does that fall into play? He said that it is called market value.
“If you think you are smarter then my lawyer, bring it!” commented DeWitt.
Melloon noted the council hadn’t done anything yet. He said the board is taking all the information under advisement.
Melloon read the building permit application on the same property, owned by Ben Beil. He noted the building permit is to complete the remodel of the trailer on the site plan attached to the form.
McCoy made a motion to accept and board member David Kliensasser seconded the motion.
With a roll call vote, McCoy and Kleinsasser voted yay with Melloon voting nay.
Moving on, Calvin Beil said that after he purchased his piece property uptown, he realized five feet of the property belongs to the city. He explained he didn’t know that information and he would like to fix the problem and take care of the issue. Beil noted he would like to purchase the property instead of leasing it.
McCoy said, yes, it is a bad situation, and he had spoken with Beil about it. He explained Beil’s fence would be moved to align with the structure and finish the fence with a gate on end. McCoy noted then Beil’s property would not be visible from the alley. He commented that he looked into the cost of the lot and the county assessed value would be the absolute minimum in his mind to sell five feet. McCoy said $645 is the value, according to the Turner County Assessor Office. He explained $129 is his absolute rock bottom cost. McCoy commented the attorney informed him to find a respected citizen to give their opinion of what five feet would be worth.
Beil commented he wants to resolve the problem that the city should have fixed a long time ago.
Resident Ellen Buskohl explained that McCoy informed her that he spoke with the attorney. She said before giving her figure she wanted to review the communication from the attorney. Buskohl noted this is something that needs to be taken care of carefully. She commented that she did walk down and see the other portion of the property and there are old cars and that she will not be giving a bid because she is afraid the fence will move and there will be more cars.
“We already have more cars in town for rats, mice, possums, raccoons and whatever they want to make their home. I’m going to bow out of this situation until I see that email and I want to see that is a complete communication between our attorney,” noted Buskohl.
She continued, “While we are talking about that, I really think the attorney should be here for those kinds of things.”
Buskohl said the board has been going back and forth during the meetings with “we are not sure” or “we don’t know” and to get the attorney and pay whatever it is to get him here.
Feste said he agrees with Buskohl that if Beil receives five more feet, more cars will come in and what does the city have to gain. He noted if the city was looking at selling property, he would be interested in some if all he had to do was ask.
“I really don’t feel that is fair. One person asks to buy some property from the city and you guys just go ‘Ok we are just going to sell it to him if we can come up with a price.’ Because there is property I would love to buy from the city,” said Feste.
Melloon noted the board didn’t say they would sell it to Beil.
Feste said if the council is going to open it up to sell city property, he wants some.
Berg commented that he believes the council needs to get the lawyer to straighten out on a few things. He explained to start selling property the property has to be declared surplus.
“So whatever you are getting from your lawyer, you better get him here and get some answers. And serve the purpose for the people in town,” exclaimed Berg.
Melloon said the council would table the item until they could come up with an amicable resolution.