Owner stands to lose occupancy permit for 25-bedroom house

By on June 12, 2018

This 2017 photo shows the 5,000-square-foot main wing of  ‘The Chesapeake,’ Behind it are two 5,000-square-foot wings. To the left, almost hidden, is the home of Marie and Michael Long. (Dee Langston)

Think you might like to rent “The Chesapeake,” a 25-bedroom estate facing the ocean in the off-road area north of Corolla?

It’s available this month, according to the Twiddy and Co. website, at a discounted price of $22,500 per week.

But you might want to hurry. The owner, Elizabeth Letendre, has lost out in the latest court ruling involving the 15,000- square-foot event rental, and Currituck County may revoke her occupancy permit.

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The case has ping-ponged through the courts since 2014, and apparently, it isn’t over yet.

Last year, Judge Walter Godwin of Currituck County Superior Court ruled in Letendre’s favor and entered a preliminary injunction May 30, 2017 prohibiting the county from enforcing its ordinance and its definition of a single-family dwelling as interpreted by the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

The county had previously issued a stop-work order on the project, which Godwin ordered rescinded in July. He also directed the county to issue an occupancy permit once the project cleared its final inspections.

That permit was issued in September, 2017, granting Letendre the use of her “seaside retreat,” as the property is described on the Twiddy website.

Currituck County appealed the Superior Court decision to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, which reversed the superior court’s ruling.

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“The Court of Appeals held that Currituck Superior Court erroneously enjoined the county from enforcing its ordinances,” Currituck County Attorney Ike McRee said.

The court also acted in error by ordering the county to rescind its stop-work order, he added.

After the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruling, the county is free to enforce its ordinances, McRee said, including revoking the certificate of occupancy.

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The county will reissue a notice of violation of Currituck’s single-family dwelling ordinances and seek compliance with those ordinances, McRee added.

“We’re continuing to determine when those next steps will occur,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that Ms. Letendre continued to construct these buildings, but nevertheless, she chose to do so.”

At issue is whether the structure is a single-family dwelling, or three separate, but attached buildings as the Court of Appeals ruled. The county ordinance only allows for a single, principal structure in the single-family zoning district, McRee said.

The project is U-shaped, with a three-story main building facing the ocean. It has two-story perpendicular wings cosmetically attached to each end. Letendre purchased about 3 1/2 acres for the house on Ocean Hill Road in Carova in 2012.

Her initial plan was for three stand-alone buildings, which would meet the requirements of the Coastal Area Management Act. To meet CAMA regulations for a single structure, the structure must have been built 200 feet farther away from the ocean.

The property is zoned for single-family dwellings, so to meet Currituck’s zoning ordinance, the project must be a single unit. In an effort to meet both CAMA and the county’s requirements, Letendre connected the buildings by hallways, and was issued a building permit in 2013.

However, Letendre’s neighbors, Marie and Micheal Long, appealed to the county’s Board of Adjustment, asserting that the project was three buildings, which shouldn’t be allowed in the single-family zoning district where the property is located.

The Board of Adjustment, and later, a Currituck County Superior Court judge, sided with the county. The Longs appealed that decision as well.

In June, 2016, a three-judge appellate court ruled in the Long’s favor, determining that the project was not a single-family dwelling.

As a result of that ruling, the county issued its stop-work order, and notified Letendre that she must bring the project into compliance with the county’s ordinances.

Letendre appealed that ruling, and it was reversed. The county was directed to allow Letendre to complete the project, and issue the occupancy permit.

The county appealed that decision to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, which led to the May ruling.

In the 73-page opinion issued May 15 by a three-judge appellate panel that reversed the Superior Court decision, Appellate Judge Donna Stroud noted that Letendre had been warned twice, in writing, about the possible consequences of continuing construction while the case was still in litigation.

“Plaintiff knew of the potential consequences of her decision to construct the home as it is designed and in the location she chose,” Stroud wrote. “Both the Long’s counsel and Defendant (Currituck County) specifically warned Plaintiff of the risks of proceeding with construction.

“Plaintiff knowingly chose to gamble that the order in Long would not be reversed, and she lost that gamble. The consequences of delaying construction may have also been harsh, and Plaintiff had to make a difficult choice, but the choice was hers to make.”

Letendre’s attorneys have indicated that they will appeal the decision, McRee said.

Comments

  • charlie

    “Event house” ?
    Seems to me we are looking at a complete business operation. Overnight accommodations, large meeting rooms. Vendors including wedding photographers, caterers, DJ’s, etc. If it looks like a business, has the sounds of a business, is priced like a business, is advertised like a business, it ain’t a duck. Sooner or later there will be a tragedy at one of these “event sites”. Lawyers will call them what they are…Businesses.. The LLC’s which own them will vanish and the next to be sued is the county which allowed them.

    Friday, Jun 15 @ 12:20 pm
  • Bud

    Why do people get the notion that driving up property value is a good thing? It is NOT beneficial, it contributes to the demise of the area and its heritage, and the peoples livelihood.

    Friday, Jun 15 @ 12:27 pm
  • Bud

    Kathy K, you are mistaken thinking this structure brings value to the area. It is actually degrading to the area, its peoples and their heritage.

    Friday, Jun 15 @ 12:31 pm
  • hightider

    I must be the ignorant person that Lyla Rose cites because despite my degrees in linguistics, I have no idea what “ghebgeneralized” means. BTW, like many residents I don’t need to rely on tourists for either low taxes or business.

    Saturday, Jun 16 @ 2:24 am
  • Lewis Greenfield

    I will make this short. To build a home, you must turn in a site plan. That site plan was approved by the County, CAMA, etc. Changes to the site plan must be approved. This site plan and location of the home, is shown on a survey. There were no surprises when she built the home.
    I agree with everyone that the home doesn’t go with the theme in the 4×4 area and all of the other arguments. BUT when a builder gets the proper permits and builds a home, there shouldn’t be a turn back when the house is 75% complete and again after it is finished. If there was a problem with the home it should have been kicked back to the builder for corrections before the pylons were even put in the sand.

    Saturday, Jun 16 @ 9:12 am
  • Moe

    Hey. It’s a spit of land that will be gone in 100 years. Let people build barns on piers. Build x3! Jobs x3! #mobxga!

    Saturday, Jun 16 @ 2:21 pm
  • Manteoer

    People don’t make a home (rental home) a venue site. This is getting absolutely rediciously obserd. If it’s got 7 or more bedrooms it’s not your average house. Get over it its not a house. It’s a freaking hotel. My grandparents started a motel in 73 and it’s still there run by my aunt. Again that isn’t a house.

    Saturday, Jun 16 @ 10:13 pm
  • Risks

    Neither the owner nor the contractor should have chosen to begin construction on the project while it was still in litigation. A conscious and informed drcision was made to ignore the potential consequences. The County is required to revoke the permits to comply with court order.

    Sunday, Jun 17 @ 1:14 pm
  • Frank Moore

    When the accessory buildings were attached the original permit was made void by the owner/contractor. Even with all of Ms Letendres friends writing on her behalf she ******up by attaching the accessory buildings. It’s amazing that people with money, I guess she has some or by now had some, think that buys them the right to flaunt the rules that everyone else has to follow. There are no tears from me for Letendres she took a chance and lost now she needs to man up and tear it down and do it right the second time.

    Sunday, Jun 17 @ 4:57 pm
  • Rockbass

    The people that live in Dare and Currituck gave up the right to judge the use of”private” homes the minute large home development began. The vast majority of homes on the North Banks are clearly businesses.
    We happen to rent from Ms. Letendre, as small business owners it is disheartening to to read many of these comments. Regardless of the good old boy politics keeping the Chesapeake from injecting more millions into the local economy.
    We gladly spend thousands and thousands of dollars at local businesses from Kill Devil Hills to Corolla. Yet there is no local businesses stance regarding this house that was built entirely by local contractors.
    The same politicians that are trying stop this home approved Wal-mart, and a water park among other corporate eyesores. Who doesn’t get it?

    Sunday, Jun 17 @ 10:50 pm
  • Jack Maniscalco

    What a shame! We had been coming since 1999 to Currituck to relax. We’d rent a home on the sound, get a good book or two, glass of wine, and let the year’s tensions fade away. In the past two years, other obligations prevented us from taking our annual pilgrimage. After having read the story and the many and bitter comments, it appears that our yearly refuge from the hectic day to day pace is gone. We always knew it would be crowded and a bit more expensive, but the friendly locals and relaxing pace were worth it. I am saddened of how that little bit of solace has turned into the rest of the world.

    Monday, Jun 18 @ 10:32 am
  • surf123

    @Kathy K you really do not get that the government is not responsible for ensuring that businesses are profitable or even exist. There are plenty of people here already.

    Monday, Jun 18 @ 5:46 pm
  • Carl Benedetti

    It was meant to be a way to make money. Not a place to live, enjoy the area or anything else. If this hotel is allowed to pass what’s to stop the flood gates from opening.

    Monday, Jun 18 @ 5:51 pm
  • Lee

    @ Ms Karen K. I hear what you are saying about this house elevating property values. Here is what elevating property values have done for the real locals and natives as I am in this area. I have lived here for 62 years and my family have been here over 200 years. Well ms Karen here is an effect of these elevated property values you talk about. I bought property before the elevation took place. My children have had to move from this area because they could not afford the elevated property prices. How would you feel if your children and grandchildren were hours away from you because an influx of northern money that made it impossible for them to live near you. The locals and natives from the obx has paid the biggest price. Heck most of the locals make less money in a year that you paid for one week rental in that house. Mr Maniscalco said some really interesting about the real obx, it is the friendly locals and relaxing pace, that is what made the obx famous in the 70’s 80’s and 90’s. Sir that is gone for the most part and the northern money took it away.
    Karen there are no local neighbors anywhere near that house, they are all imports. Did you talk to the people in the house behind you that started the law suit to stop the big house. They built their house to live in not to rent out as a party house. Put yourself in their shoes would you want a 26 bedroom party house across the street from where you live. This all has to stop soon there is no city water there and septic and wells in such a small area will be an issue soon.

    Tuesday, Jun 19 @ 1:20 pm
  • Part Time OBXer

    Very important point that keeps getting overlooked: “… and that the property rights of Swan Beach LLC have not been violated because commercial development in the four-wheel drive area of the county has never been allowed by county ordinance.”

    This ‘single family house’ is a motel/hotel plain and simple – tear it down! Its an eye sour and does not fit into the history and preservation of Corolla and Northern OBX.

    Wednesday, Jun 20 @ 12:29 pm
  • Melissa

    I’m wondering why the neighbors who built the house to “live in” rented it for so many years until the construction started next door? They also rent another house in the outer banks. Interesting how people tend to welcome tourism and economic growth when it suits them.

    Wednesday, Jun 20 @ 2:12 pm
  • Unrelated

    Neighbors did indeed rent their single family home next door beginning in 2004 when it was completed. The home started out being rented during summer months, never going more than 3 weeks in a row without the homeowner occupying it for at least a week in between, as well as throughout the offseason. Rental weeks were slowly reduced as the owners were able to occupy more – from 10 weeks in summer, to 8, to 4 and finally to 1 in 2012 – this was well before construction started on the project next door . The home has been occupied by the owners since then. They do also indeed own a 6 bedroom SFD in the paved road area that is rented as a vacation home. None of this info is related in any way to the court case regarding non-compliance with the UDO of a project that was built as three principle structures. Tourism and economic growth are not dependent on allowing violation of rules.

    Wednesday, Jun 20 @ 6:09 pm
  • Carla

    The fact that another big house in the Outer Banks is even a story is hysterical. It’s happened over many years and it’s called progress. Get over it.

    Thursday, Jun 21 @ 1:47 pm
  • Rockbass

    As long as you mention it….Ms. Letendre owns two other rentals that she also takes off the market several weeks a year for family and friends. She also (demands) recommends that family and friends use local businesses.
    I’m not interested in getting into a character debate, but before you throw the big business flag a little home work would pay dividends.
    Btw if a project is approved there is no noncompliance until the building party is made whole.

    Friday, Jun 22 @ 9:41 pm
  • Jack

    I agree with Carla! Stop making this house the poster child for big houses. You made the bed Currituck County. And I will reiterate what others have said. They had a permit and therefore every right to build.

    Tuesday, Jun 26 @ 2:32 pm
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