Sunday, February 10, 2002

Property dispute ends

Court kills home improvement

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ANDERSON TOWNSHIP — A nearly decade-long dispute over a home addition that was built without a permit could end soon with a solution no one really wants: the township tearing off the addition, and forcing the homeowner to pay for the work.

        Steve Dapper has until today to move his belongings out of the addition he built on his 19th century farm house on Mount Carmel Road. He said Friday he has no intention of doing so, and will fight what he calls harassment by local officials.

        Mr. Dapper, who started work on the addition in the early 1990s, was ordered to stop in 1993 because he had no permit. Since then, the case has wound through various township and county offices, and the courts. Citations were issued, fines levied, deadlines came and went.

        Finally, on Jan. 10, Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Melba Marsh found him in contempt of court for failing to live up to an agreement in June 2001 to finally get a building permit. She gave him 30 days to move his stuff.

        Mr. Dapper said the 1,200-square-foot, two-story addition is not really an addition. He said he remodeled a structure that was already there, and didn't think he needed a permit. He claimed he was not notified of the January court hearing.

        On top of everything, he said, the only bathroom in the house is in the addition.

        “They're trying to make me homeless,” said Mr. Dapper, who lives in the house with his wife and three children.

        “Tearing down a portion of someone's home is a very serious action,” said Dave Zaidain, director of development services for the township.

        Others involved in the case expressed similar frustration.

        “We have exhausted every single avenue,” said Barb Heffner, township zoning inspector. “We gave him every opportunity to get this resolved.”

        Township Trustee Russ Jackson said the whole affair “has just been a pain. He's done this to the detriment of his neighbors. We've had neighbors come to our meetings and complain.”

        Mr. Dapper defends the quality of his work. Taking a reporter through the addition recently, he jumped up and landed on the floor with both feet.

        “This is really solid,” he says. “I've tried four times to get a building permit. They keep refusing.”

        Tonia Edwards, Hamilton County building commissioner, said Mr. Dapper applied for a permit in 1998, but it was voided when he didn't offer any specific plans for what he was doing. He applied again in April 2000 with the help of an architectural firm, but that effort ended when Mr. Dapper and the architect got into a dispute over payment, and what was being accomplished.

        “There was no end in sight,” said Mr. Dapper, adding that he spent $10,000 on architectural and engineering work. “There was no guarantee I would ever get a building permit.”

        Now, barring a court order, the township is moving ahead with plans to send in a wrecking crew. Mr. Zaidain estimated the cost at $40,000, and said Mr. Dapper would be assessed the cost of the work, possibly through a lien on his property.

        “If they'd get out of the way, the building would be done,” he said. “They don't want me to finish my house.”


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