City sues over three-person rule
Written by The Flat Hat|
January 27, 2009
Students living at 711 Richmond Rd. are being sued by the City of Williamsburg for allegedly violating the three-person rule, which bars more than three unrelated people from living together in a Williamsburg house.
Complaints made by other residents in the neighborhood to City Zoning Administrator Rodney Rhodes prompted the city to file an injunction to Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court, according to documents obtained by The Flat Hat through the City Attorney’s office.
The city is suing each of the defendants for $3,000, immediate compliance with the city ordinance, immediate permission to inspect the property and attorneys’ fees and costs.
The defendants are listed as Nicholas Skantz ’09, Paul Moore ’09, Gregory Genovese ’09, David Andrew Fleming and landlords Pamela V. Cutler and Robert C. McDevitt.
David Andrew Fleming is not listed in the College’s directory. Andrew David Fleming ’09 confirmed that his address last semester was 711 Richmond Rd.
“I live in a seven-bedroom house,” Skantz said. “For just three [people] to live in this house is ridiculous.”
Skantz, Moore and Genovese are listed as tenants on the lease.
“I don’t think we’re going to deny we were in violation of the three-person rule,” Skantz said. “We are in compliance now. There was a fourth person living here. At this point he has [another] residence and he is paying rent there.”
According to Rhodes, the anonymous complaint that prompted the lawsuit included detailed information on the cars that were regularly parked in front of the residence. By using the license plates of the cars, the city was able to determine to whom the cars are registered and, by extension, who was allegedly living at the residence.
In a letter addressed to the tenants from the residence’s property manager, Colby T. Cumber, it is indicated that a log was kept of vehicle activity at the residence by the person who filed the anonymous complaint. Four different vehicles were seen parked regularly at the house — with regularly defined as nine or more days during the five-and-a-half-week period from Sept. 17, 2008 to Oct. 29, 2008.
The court papers filed by the city also detail a fifth automobile, registered to a Patricia Menkart Richardson of Christianburg, Va., that has led the city attorney’s office to believe that a fifth individual resides at the house. The city has not been able to identify the automobile’s owner.
According to Skantz, it has been determined by the tenants that the car in question belongs to Alison Smith ’09, who he said was a frequent visitor of the home who currently resides in another apartment.
This is not the first time the city has taken action against students living in violation of the controversial three-person ordinance.
Two years ago, six residences were found in violation of the ordinance. The students were asked to sign affidavits demanding they find new living arrangements at the conclusion of that semester.
Rhodes said that a similar conclusion to this situation is not likely.
“That would not be an option,” he said. “It would be unreasonable to let them stay in violation of a city ordinance for four months.”
Rhodes added that the entire situation had been monitored and investigated by private citizens, whose identities he could not disclose, and that he had fielded multiple complaints from multiple sources about the house.
After receiving the complaints, Rhodes sent letters dated Dec. 12, 2008, to each of the listed tenants, as well as the landlords, demanding immediate compliance with the ordinance.
The case was filed to the Williamsburg-James City County courthouse on Jan. 22 by the City Attorney’s office.
There is currently a task-force working with the city to discuss possible changes to the three-person rule.
Mayor Jeanne Zeidler did not return requests for comment.
Student Assembly President Valerie Hopkins ’09 declined to comment for this story.