Harrison house to appeal three person eviction

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January 26, 2010

4:31 AM

Of nine houses cited in November’s three-person rule crackdown, only one is appealing.

According to City Zoning Administrator Rodney Rhodes, eight of the nine homes are now in compliance with Williamsburg’s zoning ordinance, which, with few exceptions, prohibits more than three unrelated individuals from sharing a single-family dwelling.

Attorney John Tarley, Jr. filed an appeal Jan. 15 on behalf of Caroline Groom ’10, a resident of 219-A Harrison Ave., to the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals.

“As admitted in the Nov. 20, 2009 letter from the property owner to the Zoning Administrator, four people live at that residence,” Tarley said in his letter to the board. “However, two of the residents are sisters. Consequently, neither the tenants nor the owner believed that the occupancy violated the Williamsburg City Code.”

Groom and the other residents of 219-A Harrison Ave. declined to comment. Tarley did not return requests for comment.

Along with Groom, Sarah Beck ’10, Heather Bryant ’10, Camilla Hill ’11, Adriane Lepore ’10 and Roxanne Lepore ’10 were also cited. It has since been determined that Hill and Bryant do not live at 219-A Harrison
Ave.

In a letter to William J. Busching, Rhodes maintains his opinion that the house is in violation, despite the fact that Adriane and Roxanne Lepore are sisters. Busching is a partner of 219 Harrison Ventures, LLC, the property owner of the residence.

“The zoning administrator definitely thought it was a violation,” Assistant City Attorney Christina Shelton said. “The BZA has to make a determination. The city will determine what action they are going to take at that time.”

The actual wording of the ordinance is unclear regarding situations like the one posed by 219-A Harrison Ave.

According to attorney Andrew M. Condlin of Williams Mullen, an instructor of real estate law at the
Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College, Virginia state law gives zoning administrators wide latitude in interpreting local ordinances.

“Ultimately, the BZA will have to weigh the literal language of the ordinance with the intention behind its passage as well as the policy impacts and precedents in deciding with the City or the residents,” Condlin said in an e-mail. “This definition of family is very common in local ordinances and this particular question is often an issue in localities with colleges and universities. I would be surprised if this is the first time the City has had to interpret this issue.”

Rhodes said the board will likely address Groom’s appeal at the March 2 meeting.

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