By Deb Patterson
SYRACUSE — Syracuse Board of Zoning is seeking a $10,000 settlement from a contractor said to have “blatantly” violated rules and regulations on building a new home for Juan Zambrano on Lakeview Road in Oakwood. The settlement came at the end of a request for a variance to allow the home to remain as constructed, during the boards meeting Thursday, July 21.
“This puts the board in a very difficult spot,” said Matt Sandy, assistant planner. “I’m speechless. This is a very difficult one.” Randy Cox and new board member, Matt Goodnight, both spoke out against the contractor, agreeing with Sandy that the violations were blatant.
Ideal Suburban Homes, better known as Ideal Homes, was issued a permit on Sept. 23, 2001, to build a home 25.6 feet from the right of way, 5.1 feet from both sidelines and 25 feet from the water’s edge. However it was learned, when an occupancy permit was requested, the construction didn’t follow the granted permit.
The inspection also found a shed, while small enough not to require a permit, did not follow the setback requirements and an outdoor kitchen was built on a patio, which was not part of the permit.
The home is currently 24.2 feet from the right of way, 3.7 feet from the north side property line, 24 feet from the water’s edge and 1.5 feet from the south property line. The shed is .5 feet from the south side property line and 27 feet from the water’s edge.
Following 30-minute discussion, with the only remonstrance being an unsigned letter and a petition with numerous signatures from neighbors in favor, the board approved the patio and stone wall stay as built, granting the variance distance from the water’s edge; to have the air conditioner moved to some other location within the setback guidelines; to move, remove or replace the shed to meet the setback and the setback from the right of way and side remain as built.
Ken Biggs, owner of the construction company, explained how the project came to this point. It was noted he was ashamed and embarrassed it happened. What the board later considered as excuses, Biggs noted in all the areas they have built — over 12 counties in northern Indiana — the set backs have been measured from the foundation, not the overhangs.
After noting he has been building in Kosciusko County for 20 years, most of their buildings were in Warsaw. “We’ve never ran into this situation before with very tight set backs and we really relied on our experience in the county. In Warsaw they’ve always permitted us to measure from the foundation … different than what we’re used to and it caught us by surprise.”
Sandy said the contractor had put the board in a very difficult spot and stated this violation almost makes his office want to go back and pull every permit and “see if you screwed up any more … building in our county for over 20 years, not to know overhangs. That’s almost inexcusable.” Sandy stated when the permit application was signed, the signer was saying they would follow the rules and regulations, that those rules and regulations are known.
There was discussion resulting in agreement that moving the air conditioning unit to another location was a considerable option, but how to bring the rest of the home into compliance, Briggs was not prepared to answer that question.
“One of our thoughts is what’s the correct thing to do? … you guys, I’d say screwed up all the way around,” said Sandy. He stated it was as if the contractor threw the permit out the door and said they would build what was needed.
While Biggs maintained it was not intentional or with intent, he was told that was not an excuse. “I stand before you saying this was in no way intentional …”
“As a builder, you have got to give your guidance to your client. Not knowing the rules … shouldn’t resolve you from your responsibility to support your client … it’s almost like not knowing the rules. It’s not a valid excuse. It’s just an excuse.”
Cox made the motion to impose the settlement. “For a contractor doing business a lot of years, I propose a $10,000 settlement … There is not much typical about this case. We’ve had violations in the past with different contractors … haven’t had a violation to this extent. … running into this a lot any more, that the contractor does what he wants then comes in and asks for forgiveness.”