Posted by: Patricia Salkin | July 18, 2016

NC Appeals Court Holds Proposed Building Project Failed to Fit Within the Plain Definition of a Single Family Dwelling

Respondent Ms. Letendre owned an ocean-front lot in Currituck County and planned to build a project of approximately 15,000 square feet on the lot. The main building and side buildings are connected by “conditioned hallways” so that all three may be used together as one unit, and each of the three buildings is approximately 5,000 square feet. Petitioner-plaintiffs Michael Long and Marie Long, adjacent property owners, challenged the construction of respondent Letendre’s project claiming that the project as proposed was not a permitted use in the Single Family Residential Outer Banks Remote District (“SF District”) because it was not a “single family detached dwelling” as defined by the Currituck County Unified Development Ordinance (“UDO”). The Currituck County Planning Director determined that respondent Letendre’s project was a “single family detached dwelling;” the Currituck County Board of Adjustment (“BOA”) affirmed the Planning Director’s decision. Petitioners then appealed the BOA’s decision to the Superior Court, and the Superior Court affirmed.

On appeal, Petitioners argued that the project was not a residential building, but rather multiple buildings. Respondent Letendre contended that the characterization of a building and the methods used to lay a foundation does not matter under the UDO. The court found that even if it assumed that the use of the project was residential and that the multiple buildings would be used as “one dwelling unit” for “one family,” the project still included three “buildings.” While the definition of Single Family Dwelling allowed more than one “building” or “structure” to be constructed on the same lot, the definition also included the phrase “not physically attached to any other principal structure.” As none of these other buildings were accessory structures, the project did not fit within the plain language of the definition of Single Family Dwelling, and was therefore not appropriate in the SF District. Accordingly, the trial court’s holding was reversed.

Long v Currituck County, 787 SE 2d 835 (NC App. 6/21/2016)

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