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The county had previously issued a stop-work order on the project, which Godwin ordered rescinded in July.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

  • hightider

    I am sure the Longs made the big decision to live in Carova to enjoy its peace and tranquility, not to be adjacent to a hideous eyesore party house. People who have no vested interest in this secluded area are not respectful of it – like the person who was driving the maximum speed during “fog/low visibility” late at night and killed a wild horse. I have no sympathy for the owner of the rental machine and hope it is torn down. Even the 10-12 bedroom houses are hideous and over crowd the beach during the summer. Permanent residents of Carova should come first, not tourists or daytrippers.

    Wednesday, Jun 13 @ 1:08 am
  • dave

    LOL @ 25 bedroom SINGLE family “house”!! I’m searching for the appropriate word……um…….Oh! I know……GREED!!

    Wednesday, Jun 13 @ 9:00 am
  • OBX Girl

    This is getting absurd. The entire Outer Banks is nothing more than these monsterous homes that sit vacant most of the year. 25 bedrooms is hardly a single family home. Currituck needs to redefine what a single family home should be and 25 bedrooms is not residential. That is a commercial structure and should be treated as one. I am sure she is building it with intentions of it being an event site. So does it have sprinklers throughout the house? The Outer Banks is getting out of hand. The charm is lost. The tourists and people that DO NOT live here but own property are taking over. It’s sad. Currituck … you might as well build a damn road all the up the 4 wheel drive … move the horses and just go ahead and build up the last piece of beauty here on the Outer Banks. All for the sake of the mighty dollar.

    Wednesday, Jun 13 @ 12:14 pm
  • Lyla Rose

    Reading ignorant comments about vested interest. Many tourists keep your taxes low and afford you a great deal of business to be able to live there. Most of us tourists have invested by visiting and loving the area. I hate hearing ghebgeneralized complants of tourists ruining things down there. Which by the way the horse was killed by a local. Also if you ever have driven at night in the fog like I have it’s perfrctly understandable how a horse is hit. We caught them lying on the sand several times in the dark once when we were leaving in the dark and fog! The horse just happened to not be in our path and we were driving probably 10 mph
    I’ll agree this Home is a damn eyesore as we rent near it. However many people own large homes with over 10+ bedrooms and are single family dwellings. It is the intention of use of those dwellings that needs to be placed into the letter of ordinances. If I was a billionaire OBX is where my heart is id I’d make sure my Home had enough space for visitors. That being said my intention would be living there a majority of the year. You see in the south people don’t like government interfering and their property is theirs and they’ll do as the please is a mentality rooted in the those beliefs. You can’t want both of less and more government where you pick and choose.

    Wednesday, Jun 13 @ 5:37 pm
  • Jill

    GAMBLE??
    In addition to the NC Building Code Council and Currituck Planning and Zoning, the following government agencies approved the construction of this home:

    Coastal Management (CAMA)
    – NC Division of Wildlife Resources
    – NC Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources
    – NC Division of Marine Fisheries
    – NC Division of Water Resources
    – NC Department of Transportation
    – NC Division of Cultural Resources
    – NC Division of Community Assistance
    – NC Division of Environmental Health
    – NC Division of Parks and Recreation
    – NC Division of Soil and Water Conservation

    Army Corps of Engineers
    – US Fish and Wildlife Service
    – US Environmental Protection
    – US Marine Fisheries Service

    Let’s not forget the county issued a permit!

    Doesn’t sound like much of a gamble to me.

    Wednesday, Jun 13 @ 8:36 pm
  • Mary

    The ‘vested interest’ is money. The fault of these situations lays with County government. The hotel homes of Currituck should have been prevented before they even had a chance to start. The bed tax does little for the general residents of the County. The bed tax does plenty for the clique of family and friends who populate the County government jobs. The tourist traffic generates plenty for the vendor types who cater to tourist monies, not necessarily ‘locals’. The whole of Corolla on the paved road is an eyesore.

    Wednesday, Jun 13 @ 8:38 pm
  • J.W.

    As a former business owner on the OBX and one who has personal knowledge of this situation and has physically walked the entire beautiful house. I have to say, it is one structure. The owner of this house has gone above and beyond to accommodate every aspect of this build and meet all guidelines set forth not only by the local county but also by the residence. This house is no different than the numerous house being built and already built in KDH and Nags Head. The benefits from taxes collected, employment, and infusion of money into the local economy from projects like this is vastly needed in the OBX. The County approved the plans and the permits for this construction to start. Aren’t the two house adjacent to this structure almost as big in bedrooms as this one? They are allowed to operate without any concern or potential punitive action, why? The state of North Carolina has a variance that has no limit to the number of rooms as long as it fits within the legal parameters set forth by the county (zoning ordinances). I truly hope that this matter can be resolved, as I am sure, many other investors are watching this case closely. The potential loss of revenue and jobs could be detrimental to the success of many small businesses located within the close proximity of this structure. I feel the county should be held responsible for their lack of actions and misleading information and that in this case, this project should be allowed to continue and prosper and any future projects similar to the scope of this one should be more closely monitored by the County and township.

    Wednesday, Jun 13 @ 8:55 pm
  • Fact

    If the project were one structure the CAMA permit would have required a 455 foot setback from the first line of natural vegetation .

    Wednesday, Jun 13 @ 11:21 pm
  • Conny

    Lila Rose, the horse was killed by a local that actually is from VA? How can he/she be a local ? Just because he/she owns a cottage there? VA people are very aggressive driver ..I deal with them every weekend

    Wednesday, Jun 13 @ 11:35 pm
  • Manteoer

    Now that is exactly why oakracoke is so nice. If you wanted it nice it would look more like southern shores. All yall people that like those big houses are greedy. Thinking of tax revenue and rental income. Defines greedy.from kill devil hills to nags head the houses are stacked together like cord wood. Those houses are too BIG And so is that house in corolla. My family has had a 2 bed trailer since early 70s in corolla and currituck calls it a condo for tax purposes. Haha

    Thursday, Jun 14 @ 6:39 am
  • Rachel

    Just to weigh in, I agree with JW although Currituck County should have been more circumspect in their behavior. Also, why does this article read as though this is the only house of this size? There are four others in Currituck and Dare Counties with the same number of bedrooms and listed with similar amenities. Currituck County knew of specific problems of this nature because the neighbors of the Black Stallion at the Currituck Golf Club have attempted to put a stop to that “Event Home.” I believe the LeTendre’s have the right to question why they are estopped mid-stream when there are others who were allowed under the same ordinance. If you want “privacy” don’t shop in a tourist area. I don’t buy my hamburgers at Belk.

    Thursday, Jun 14 @ 8:54 am
  • surf123

    She gambled by continuing construction and lost. I hope Currituck county revokes to make it clear they will enforce their own laws. I am familiar with auxiliary use structures and merely connecting 3 buildings does not make them one unit. I can only hope that Currituck is able to enforce their own zoning laws and revoke the occupancy permit. They also need to get their zoning laws in order to limit house size, lot coverage, etc. Whatever it takes to prevent. Additionally this is a business and not a house (or 3 houses). It needs to be made compliant with commercial building code if it has any hope of getting a new occupancy permit.

    Thursday, Jun 14 @ 9:58 am
  • Forbes Kennedy

    There was a time when Corolla/Carova/Duck were comfortably familiar places; locations where our family of four could come for two weeks and deal with neither the crowds or riff-raff that was typical of OC or the NJ shore. Yes, I admit, I came from Philly and Cville, VA later. And yes, we were “tourists.”

    However, I cannot deny that in the 30 years we have been coming to Corolla (until 2018) that the crowds have not only spiked in volume (rental companies seldom enforce the occupancy caveats in leases) but they have also declined in terms of civility. Do I really need to deal with parked cars spilling out of driveways onto streets in front of a house with an Irish or Italian flag hanging off the week-long renter’s front deck? But, it is what it is.

    When developers and commissioners work hand-in-hand to court ridiculous growth levels, then we get the current results. It caused us to eliminate Corolla from the list of locations we choose to but a retirement property.

    This will continue, in the interest of increased tax revenues and–as J.W. alluded to–employment in low-paying retail and service jobs, county commissioners will embrace it.

    Having grown up around big city politics, it is not different in Currituck: follow the money trail.

    Thursday, Jun 14 @ 10:19 am
  • Note

    There are no specific restrictions on number of bedrooms or square footage in Currituck County. That is not what this case is about. None of the other large structures referred to in earlier comments consist of more than one principle structure . The plain and simple language of the ordinance involved says that a single family dwelling consists of one principle structure and all others must be accessory. This is the same definition in most localities throughout North Carolina. In addition ,although they serve important functions,none of the agencies mentioned above, other than zoning and CAMA, have anything to do with number of structures .

    Thursday, Jun 14 @ 1:25 pm
  • Part Time OBXer

    This is not a single family structure – plain and simple. It is a business. And since there is no Commercial use on the 4×4, this business is therefore out of code and not within county zoning laws. The single structure, passed the initial CAMA because it didn’t add in the other 2 structures because they weren’t attached. Attached, they needed to be set back another 200 feet, and that wouldn’t be possible as then it wouldn’t fit on the lot size. And to be attached, it didn’t meet county zoning code. And it can’t be considered commercial since that is banned in the 4×4 area. 3 strikes, your out…. of a couple of million dollars! Tear it down! At some point quality of life has got to outweigh greedy people looking to ruin everything around them just to make the all mighty dollar! But since they don’t live there, who cares, they don’t have to look at it! Maybe they should build it in front of their actual residence where they live and see how they like it!

    Thursday, Jun 14 @ 1:31 pm
  • OBX Girl

    Face it … Outer Banks was bought and sold long ago! The charm is gone, tourists have taken over and just about every damn huge home on the banks is owned by someone out of state. Mostly up North. The counties only see dollar signs. Sad, so sad. The tourists are the problem. Big homes are being built to suit them. They are eye sores that sit vacant majority of the year, they drive up the cost of living here for the locals and not to mention we have to put up with the tourists clogging our roads, don’t pay attention to the speed limits, trash our beaches and I have yet to meet one that is respectful of a local. Majority of locals hate the tourists and wish they would stay home.

    Thursday, Jun 14 @ 3:29 pm
  • Cate

    The house is done. They had a permit. Leave it alone. Greedy, billionaires … how about hard working people who decided to invest in the area!

    Thursday, Jun 14 @ 9:21 pm
  • Kathy K

    Being an owner in OBX for over 12 years and having just rented The Chesapeake to host a family wedding, I have to share that this is an amazing home that surpasses anything I have seen in the Outer Banks.

    This house elevates property values which is good for everyone, as well as brings a lot of revenue to local vendors. With families renting this home local vendors that gain business include: caterers, wedding designers, florists, photographers, rental companies for chairs, tables, linens, lighting & a dance floor. Also, DJ’s, hair, make-up and nail salons gain new business in addition to all the guests spending money to tour the area. This includes site seeing, boat rentals, lighthouse and other tours, commerce to the local restaurants, including favorites like Uncle Ike’s and Duck Donuts, the 4×4 fire station visits/donations and the groceries bought were boundless. During the week, there were a few items needing repair, which is typical, so several local 4×4 contractors were extremely helpful and responsive to make repairs and shared their appreciation for the Chesapeake and the income it brings them. Having worked with every one of these local vendors, they could not have been more gracious of the business we brought them. During rental season a wedding event can bring in approximately $25,000 to $75,000 each week to local vendors and local businesses. That is an amazing revenue opportunity for Corolla and Currituck County. Setting aside the money, the joy it brings to families that gather from all over, and the memories they have will last for a life time.

    Grounds to not permit occupancy of this amazing property is unacceptable given all the value it brings to the area. Having been the first wedding at the Chesapeake this year, the joy it brought our family from age 2 to Grammy at 92 provided so many special memories as well as photos and fun that they will talk about forever. Also, in speaking with the local neighbors, they could not have been nicer and more supportive of our wedding event.

    Being a property owner in OBX, I understand the concerns about disrupting the specialness of the Outer Banks. It is a unique area and preserving that specialness is important. However, its good to have a balanced approach between preserving this great land but also making it such that local commerce continues to grow and thrive from these types of investments. Otherwise we lose the opportunity to other surrounding and competing beaches that could impact the health and success of local vendors and their ability to make money here in OBX. I encourage the Superior court to tour this venue to see firsthand its specialness that the owners have fostered to create the ultimate guest experience!
    Kathy K

    Friday, Jun 15 @ 7:32 am
  • Doubleoverhead

    However did the businesses survive in the early 90s before greedy developers decided to destroy the offroad portion if Corolla? Now you have to pay to park, and it will take you three hours to get up there on a Saturday. The horses need to be moved, it wont be long before they are all gone. Dont fault the owners of the giant houses for building their dream homes, fault the rich greedy developers for paving the way for them to do it, and for lining the pockets of your election officials for permission. Every year the greedy developers try to get the height restrictions lifted, its only a matter of time until we look like Virginia Beach. Everyone wants to cry about offshore drilling, even send out mayor to DC about it, meanwhile our beach is actually being destroyed by greedy developers and greedy officials. Some hotels dont have 25 rooms, so ridiculous, how many free visitors parking passes do you get with that monster? Standby for more of the same. I love how people think the locals are getting rich from all these giant homes and filthy rich tourists.

    Friday, Jun 15 @ 9:01 am
  • Fact again

    Once again, this case is not about the use or size of the buildings. Size isn’t restricted nor is use as a wedding or corporate event venue. No one is going to lose their job – the county’s not going to lose income. Projects similar to this, including venues for weddings, are not prohibited. The difference is that this particular project violates the county ordinance because it was intentionally built as three principal buildings. If it had been built as one large u-shaped building there would not be an issue ( it would just have been required by CAMA to be built further back on the lot at the correct setback for total square footage). It is unfortunate that the county’s original interpretation was wrong, but also unfortunate to move forward with construction knowing what the consequences could be with litigation ongoing. The project can still come into compliance by converting to one principal building.

    Friday, Jun 15 @ 10:17 am
  • 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

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