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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Editorials Editorial: Kure Beach Should Resolve Fireplace Issue

Editorial: Kure Beach Should Resolve Fireplace Issue

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

Ann and Richard Lawing built an amazing house in Kure Beach, NC. Richard has been in the home building business for over 40 years.
The Kure Beach building inspector admitted to signing off on their building plans and making numerous inspections of the project through out construction, but at the last minute refused to allow them to move into the house because their fireplace jutted out around six inches to far into the "setback" on the side of the house from the property line. There are many facets to this story and the Lawings have pled their case to the Town's Board of Adjustment twice with no success. They are now planning to appeal in Superior Court.
The bottom line here is simple: We're talking about a miniscule amount of inches overhanging into the setback.
This situation would have been avoided had the building inspector caught the issue when reviewing the plans. Since he signed off on the plans showing the "cantilevered fireplace" encroaching into the very setback area that he is supposed to monitor when reviewing plans, the Town of Kure Beach is at fault.
For if the Town can't uphold their own ordinance when reviewing plans to ensure compliance, then what level of confidence are property owners to hold when working with the Town. Should property owners be advised to pay critical attention to everything the Town does because if they miss something it will cost potentially tens of thousands of dollars due to the Town's mistake?
That's the message the Town is sending to property owners. Staff's errors can cost you tens of thousands of dollars to correct, or, tens of thousands of dollars to fight in court.
That's a sad message for the Town to convey to existing and current property owners.
It also sets the stage for the word to get out that you can't trust the Town and should double check everything they approve and get them to sign letters, personally and professionally, guaranteeing you won't be confronted with hardships due to their oversights or errors in approving building plans.
The Lawings will appeal the most recent decision by the Town's Board of Adjustment denying a variance to the ordinance and interpretation of the ordinance by the building inspector. It they are successful, it will cost the taxpayers money.  
Even if the Town wins, the taxpayers will still have spent, by way of their leaders decision to fight this case, many thousands of dollars to fight a minor number of inches for a fireplace into a side setback area that no one will notice when driving by the property. Something less of an issue than many other encroachment issues on properties throughout Town.
This is an issue where common sense should prevail.
The Town Council should schedule public hearings and hold a meeting to adjust the
ordinance governing encroachments into setback areas. The ordinance already permits a number of encroachments, just not for cantilevered fireplaces.
The ordinance states, "Architectural features such as fire escapes, cornices, eaves, steps, gutters, buttresses, open or enclosed fire escapes, outside stairways, balconies, and similar features, but not carports or porches, may project not more than eighteen (18) inches into any required yard."
The fireplace in question on the north side of the new home at 242 N. Third Avenue is not an eyesore, not a public health and safety issue and does not increase the footprint or overall visual mass of the structure.
It would not exist had the building inspector not signed off on the plans with that fireplace included.
Also, adopt a concrete ordinance spelling out the responsibilities of the Town to adequately advise, and double check compliance, with regards to building plans, site surveys, etc with attention to catching such issues early in the
process prior to construction rather than after the fact thereby creating a hardship where a homeowner's only option is to demolish a portion of their new home to comply with the ordinance.
This is akin to a police officer leading you to believe the speed limit is 35 mph and then the same officer pulling you over a mile down the road and saying, "Sorry, I was wrong, it's 25 and here's a ticket."