Property owner to test ordinance in January

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

By Joanie Morris

Kannapolis Citizen

The trailer sits conspicuously on the corner of Dale Earnhardt Boulevard and Old Centergrove Road, blue and white metal with “614 & aelig;” spray painted in big, black letters on the side and front.

No one really knows the story of 614 & aelig;. Some say a disabled man lived there who painted it after he was told he could be missed if there was an emergency. The others say dispatchers told the people living there 911 wouldn’t be able to find it and so they painted it.

Either way, for some it is a cause of complaint.

For Mary High, it’s part of her livelihood — a part that may be taken away in January when the Board of Adjustments discusses High’s request for a variance to allow the continued existence of the trailer.

High is also asking for another structure on the property, a duplex with an address of 614, to remain a duplex.

Tony Cline, code administrator for the city of Kannapolis, said the trailer and duplex are being brought before the Board of Adjustments because of complaints through the years about the trailer. Code enforcement officers have been to the property and determined that it would be habitable, but because of the Unified Development Ordinance adopted on Nov. 27, 2000, it has to be moved.

The zoning ordinance changed the area Office/Institutional. In that zoning, single family homes, offices and other institutional uses are allowed.

Most of the buildings along Old Centergrove Road are either single family homes, duplexes or trailers. The duplexes and trailers are grandfathered into the ordinance as long as they are inhabited. If any duplex or trailer is uninhabited for six months or longer, it has to be removed, according to the ordinance.

High’s trailer has been uninhabited since June 2004 and the duplex has been empty since March 2005.

“If her appeal is not granted, (the duplex) has to become single family residential” or offices, said Cline. The mobile home would have to be moved or torn down. “I just know 614 & aelig; is something we’ve received calls about for several years. Now that we see this zoning requirement, it doesn’t matter what condition it is in.”

Cline said the city isn’t targeting mobile homes that are not in compliance with the ordinance, only following up on complaint calls and places where there are police issues.

“We’re not riding around looking for them,” said Melanie Reeder, a community planner in the same office.

She said it is possible that the Board of Adjustment does nothing, but would be surprised if they allowed the mobile home, especially, to stay. “It will depend a lot on the public. If there’s a bunch of people against it, they’ll probably say it’s got to go.”

On the other hand, if the owner and area residents say it’s not a problem and they don’t mind it, the Board of Adjustment could decide the mobile home can stay. She pointed out several zoning violations on the lot. There are two structures on one lot, there is a mobile home and duplex that have been vacant for more than six months and the mobile home violates setbacks to Dale Earnhardt Boulevard.

“This has been going on for years,” Reeder said.

Since their office has started cracking down on the ordinance, there have been five mobile homes in Kannapolis either removed voluntarily or torn down. Another is in the process of being sold and the new owner plans to remove it by the end of the year.

High said she has about 25 rental properties throughout Kannapolis. She said the vacancies at 614 and 614 & aelig; are due to renovations she wanted to make. She started to make the renovations, she said, and was approached by someone about buying the property as it was. When that deal fell through, High said she heard about the ordinance and decided to appeal the decision by code enforcement.

Her appeal includes two things — continuation of the duplex as a multi-family home and leaving the trailer where it is.

“They said this law’s been in affect since 2000,” said High. “It was never in print or anything.”

She maintains that it is unfair to target her because she never received word that she was not conforming to code until she received a letter in October telling her the trailer had to be moved and the duplex changed to single family.

“I have owned that (property) since before Dale Earnhardt Boulevard came through,” High said. “If I can have a single family house there, why can’t I have a duplex? That’s how it’s always been …

“I was basically challenging because I think that if they make rules, they should be made public,” High said. “I had no idea there was a six month thing on it. I just don’t think it’s right to do that without people knowing.”

High paid the $300 fine to appeal the zoning because she feels the property is worth it.

“I would have already redone it and rented it if I had known,” she said.

She said if the Board of Adjustment doesn’t grant her request to keep the trailer and retain the duplex status of the house, she will conform to code.

“If I have to, I will make it a single family or turn it into an office,” High said. “It’s not what I want to do … I’d rather keep it how it was.”

Contact Joanie Morris at 704-932-3336 or jmorris@kannapoliscitizen.com.

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