Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Facing thousands in fines, property owner appeals county citation for ‘running a business’ in residential zone

If the county's violation stands, a property owner could owe $15,000 in fines for allegedly operating a business out of residentially-zoned land. The county's violation order is based on a neighbor's complaint.

A residential New Hanover County property owner has been cited for operating a construction business out of their property, an accusation the owner has appealed and denies. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Google Maps)
A residential New Hanover County property owner has been cited for operating a construction business out of their property, an accusation the owner has appealed and denies. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Google Maps)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — A property owner has appealed a New Hanover County violation notice, asking the county to present more evidence after being accused of operating a construction business out in a residentially-zoned area; based on the county’s violation letter, the fines could run as high as $15,000 if the appeal is unsuccessful.

In June, Amanda Carr received a letter from the county, notifying her that the county “had received a complaint that a construction company is being operated” at the residence. After a visit to a site, 1908 Bailey Avenue, New Hanover County’s Zoning Compliance Official Darrell Galloway wrote that he had “observed construction equipment being stored in the rear of the property.”

In a follow-up letter, dated Oct. 8, Galloway later explained that the notice of violation was informed not only by his personal observations of construction equipment being stored, but also by outside information; a complainant informed the county they had witnessed the weekly distribution of paychecks to employees from the property. He also then explained to the property owner he had personally witnessed a vehicle leaving the property towing a trailer with construction debris and equipment.

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Galloway informed Carr that a construction business could not be operated at that Middle Sound Loop address, which was zoned residential.

Carr apparently disagreed with the county’s assessment on the situation.

Represented by attorney Matthew Nichols, Carr filed an appeal, paying the $400 fee to do so.

Nichols argues in an appeal that the first letter does not resemble an actual violation notice. Nichols cites the county’s lack of specificity, and disputes the “vague” notice of violation, if it was intended to resemble one.

The body of a letter sent from the county, claiming a business was being operated out of a residential property. (Port City Daily photo / New Hanover County)
The body of a letter sent from the county, claiming a business was being operated out of a residential property. (Port City Daily photo / New Hanover County)

Denying all allegations, Nichols said the county bears the burden of proof for bringing forth more specific claims against the Bailey Avenue property owner. The county’s interpretation of its own permitted uses in the R-15 zoning district was incorrect, erroneous, and should be reversed, Nichols argues in the appeal.

If the appeal fails, the property owner could be on the hook for $100 a day since receiving Galloway’s letter, dated June 19. That’s $15,000 in total if the county were to fully enforce its civil penalties based on the allegations from the first notice of violation.

New Hanover County’s Board of Adjustment will hear the property owner’s appeal on Dec. 11. (You can read the full appeal and notice of violation here.)


Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at johanna@localvoicemedia.com

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