Casual 24 rooms
Last month, Elizabeth Letendre, homeowner in the Outer Banks dune of North Carolina, went to court suing Currituck County for illegally halting the construction of her house. Her dream home just north of Corolla, the owner argues, is her modest attempt to build a single-family dwelling.
There’s only one glitch— the $ 4.6 million property has 24 bedrooms, spans 15,000 square feet, and sleeps 50 people.
Good to go
Initially the county agreed with Ms. Letendre. In a 2013 letter, the county granted the property a residential zoning status, followed by a building permit two years later. But neighbors were appalled.
Marie and Michael Long fought the residential permit status of their neighbor’s house through county boards and courts ever since it was granted.
There was a loophole: it turns out that the county’s development ordinance and state codes do not mention bedroom limit for single dwelling houses.
Hitch in the plan
Every step of the way, the Longs lost. Time and again authorities sided with Ms. Letendre. Until the Appeals Court, which ruled in their favor in June 2016:
the house should not be considered a single-family dwelling.
Currituck county was then legally bound to reverse its own interpretation of what a “single family dwelling” means. It issued a stop-work order in September, three months after the Appellate Court judgment, but just before construction was completed.
In January, the Currituck County Board of Commissioners declined to amend the ordinance so Ms. Letendre could finish the house.
“We had no choice,” County Attorney Ike McRee said.
Now Ms. Letendre has gone to court, arguing that the property is a single-family house. “Under North Carolina law, Letendre has a recognized and protected right to develop her lot,” the suit says. The permit gave her legal permission to begin construction, it adds, noting that the Appeals court decision did not ask for the work to stop.
Now the county has 60 days to respond against its suit.
What to do
A handful of similar sized houses already exist in the county. But they are all listed as event houses or businesses. If Letendre household is labeled as a business, then it shall not be permitted in the residential zoning area.
This would be interesting to watch.