Judge fines resident for zoning violation
A Washington County resident has been fined $750 for violating the county zoning ordinance, a civil penalty. Magistrate Court Judge Dan Kitchen also ordered the resident to pay for court costs.
According to court record, Robert L. Luke of 1951 Highway 92, Washington, was tried in Magistrate Court on June 3, 2013. Washington County Attorney Larry Brock prosecuted the case.
Luke did not install a 6-foot opaque fence on his property in accordance with the zoning ordinance and not in the amount of time he was given to complete the fence. He operates several businesses, including recycling and/or salvage operations. The property is located in an agriculture zone.
Owners of a home immediately south and slightly east of Luke’s property complain of the junk, scrap and recycled materials involved in Luke’s business operations.
The court record states that Luke’s property is a “legal nonconforming use” and that the county issued Luke a Certificate of Zoning compliance for the property for an industrial use of construction yard and recycling processing. Luke did not comply with the zoning ordinance. He was supposed to build a 6-foot opaque fence. The county complained that the fence was not erected within the one-year time limit set in the ordinance.
According to Washington County Planning & Zoning administrator Steve Lafaurie, he first notified Luke about the fence requirement in May 2011, with a written notice. The deadline for erecting the fence was July 1, 2012, Lafaurie said in a telephone interview.
Lafaurie said there was “a great deal of communication” between him and Luke about the requirement. Additional letters were sent to Luke and Luke was given a Notice of Violation in November 2012.
Luke appealed the Notice of Violation to the county’s Planning & Zoning Commission. The commission upheld Lafaurie’s decision.
Luke then appealed to the county Board of Adjustment and Luke lost that appeal. The next step was to take it to court.
The court record states that Luke complained that even though he had numerous contacts with Lafaurie, that Lafaurie kept changing the requirements.
The court record also states that Luke said that demands to construct the fence were not clear.
The Journal attempted to contact Luke, but he did not respond.
The court record stated that attempts were made to accommodate the code, the neighboring residents and Luke’s need to operate his business. It also stated that Luke was given several deadlines to comply with the ordinance before enforcement occurred. Luke did make progress in constructing a chain-link fence, but that fence doesn’t comply with the ordinance.
Under Section 3.02 of the Washington County Code of Ordinances, a county infraction is punishable by a civil penalty not to exceed $750. In addition, each day a violation occurs or is permitted to exist constitutes a repeat offense under that section. The citation issued requested the maximum penalty for a first offense. Brock did ask the court to assess a penalty of $5 for each day the infraction continues.
The court record stated that Luke made some headway on constructing a fence, so the court did not find an ongoing sanction to be appropriate at the time.
“It is in Mr. Luke’s best interest to finish erecting the fence and finish installing slats to make the fence opaque immediately,” the court document stated.
Luke was informed that he has the right to appeal the ruling by filing a notice with the Clerk of Court’s office within 20 days from the date of the ruling. Appeal bond was set at $850.