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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Letters to the Editor In Defense of Mr. Batson

In Defense of Mr. Batson

Dear Editor,
I have been following the story of the Lawing non-compliance issue and finally reached the point where I had to vent. The title that I put on this note is somewhat misleading in that it is my opinion that John Batson does not need to be defended in this ridiculous case of someone making a mistake and trying to blame somebody—anybody—else.
I was a building contractor in a past life and have worked with many different municipalities, big and small, on all manner of projects. Here, from my perspective and based on a lot of hands-on experience, is how it works: The requirements vary greatly from place to place, but the two absolute constants that come to mind are that ONE—you need to bring your checkbook, and TWO—you will be required to submit a drawing, even if it’s on a napkin, depicting the setback lines for the property and how the proposed structure relates to them. That’s it. Very simple.
So, you submit your napkin on which you have indeed colored inside the lines. You submit your building plans that conform to the myriad, constantly growing and changing regulations. Then, as a contractor or responsible party, you ensure that things are done according to the plans.
I don’t claim to know the particulars of this project/case, but speaking generally, I cannot imagine submitting a plot plan for a project that showed an incursion into a setback. The amount of the incursion is irrelevant. No municipality is going to allow it and no building official would overlook something that would be so glaringly obvious on a plot plan. I would be pretty comfortable making the bet that the Lawing’s plot plan did not show an incursion.
I am making the assumption that the Lawings are making their claims based on the fact that their fireplace cantilever was very likely shown in detail on the building plans. That means nothing. Plot plans and building plans are two different things. It doesn't matter if there are twenty cantilevered fireplaces on a building plan, as long as everything is conforming. Conforming would include the small matter of everything fitting inside the lines. Even contractors know this, and most of you know that some of us are not the brightest knives in the lightbulb drawer.
I have seen quotes of the Lawings that indicate that they feel they are being picked on by Mr. Batson, that he, brace yourself, “became a stickler.” My reading of that is: We all knew it was wrong and John wouldn’t even turn a blind eye. That...that...stickler!
I say, good, he’s doing his job. How could anybody expect that the town would allow such a precedent to be set? Where might that lead, I wonder. And I would imagine that anybody who has changed a design, or worse, has had to correct a mistake like that in the past might take issue with someone else getting an arbitrary pass. Jus’ sayin’.
We all make mistakes. John has found mistakes that either I have made myself, or was responsible for, and I corrected them. I am certain that many, if not all, of the contractors who work on the island would probably admit the same. My impression has always been that John is a good guy who is genuinely striving to do his job as well as is possible, and probably comes closer than most of us do in our endeavors.
Lastly, it bothers me that our town resources are being wasted by the Lawings like they have been. It also really bugs me that a sob story, or hardship slant, has been attached to this “story” by the media, including by the editor of this paper. Even if this “mistake” was made by a homeowner who got a permit without knowing a hammer from a nail, there would be no basis for their contention. The fact that the gentleman apparently holds a contractor’s license makes this situation all the more absurd.
Paul Devereaux
Kure Beach