Council discusses options for permit extension

The Red Oak City Council is weighing options regarding a lapsed building permit.
On May 15, the council heard comments from Ken Schauen, who had been sent a note regarding a lapsed building permit for a garage being constructed on his and his wife’s, Kelli Confer, property at 1700 Forest Ave.
Schauen said he felt the letter was in error and should be retracted by city hall or nullified by the council.
“City administrator Al Vacanti never reached out, and most likely was not aware of the history and the actions associated with this permit. The building permit for the detatched garage was granted in May of 2019. Shortly after the permit issuance, a group tried everything they could to stop and delay the project,” Schauen said. “First, they petitioned the board of adjustment and failed to stop it through that avenue. Then, they filed a civil lawsuit against the Red Oak Board of Adjustment, and while that eventually failed, they had a court injunction to stop us from building. While everything was under litigation, we were prohibited from moving forward on it.”
Schauen said a second attempt to delay or stop the project was made to the Red Oak Board of Adjustment, which again failed, and Schauen state false claims were made to the Iowa Department of Labor, which were later dismissed.
“They claimed we had unlawful workers on the property doing construction. After an investigation, the Department of Labor dismissed it. Also, the inspection process was interfered with. Someone told the Southwest Iowa Planning Council office that the permit was invalid and they shouldn’t bother coming to Red Oak and inspecting it. The SWIPCO office would not give the name of who informed them unless they are subpoenaed,” commented Schauen.
According to Schauen, the court battles and other situations caused a two-year delay in the beginning of construction. Also, the project was delayed even further from supply chain issues during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Had the project started as scheduled, no delays would have occurred.
Also, Schauen stated that they were given notice by former city administrator Brad Wright that the permit would be extended due to the circumstances.
“This was agreed upon by both Brad Wright and the attorney that represented the city that was paid by the City of Red Oak’s insurance underwriter to defend the board of adjustment while the group was suing them,” stated Schauen.
Schauen highlighted two properties. The first was 308 E. Corning St. Schauen said a permit was given for the property in February of 2020, yet had gotten no letter of a lapsed building permit in the file. The other property was at 311 E. Linden St. A permit for a project on the property was issued in May of 2016, but again, no letter of a lapsed permit was located in the file. Schauen further stated the properties were highly visible.
“Both properties are only a few blocks from city hall on busy public streets, with people passing by them daily. My property at 1700 Forest Ave. is located on a dead-end street, sees little traffic, and the garage can only be seen if you pass the house and look back over your shoulder, which just isn’t natural,” advised Schauen.
Schauen added he was curious to know if any other properties received lapsed building permit notices, and how the property was brought to Vacanti’s attention in the first place.
“It’s not a normal place to drive by. It seems like we’ve been singled out here, at a minimum, and request the council nullify the letter. The permit is 24 months past, but when something goes into litigation, the clock stops. I’m also requesting the council extend the original permit at no additional cost,” Schauen.
Councilperson Brian Bills felt the permit needed to be renewed, and asked for the normal procedure for a renewal. Red Oak Mayor Shawnna Silvius said according to City Code, it has to be formally requested before the Red Oak City Council.
According to the letter, the fee to cover the lapse in the permit would be $604.80, but that was factoring in the number of months since the permit was issued in 2019, and not factoring in the period where the property was in litigation.
Councilperson Jeanice Lester felt that Schauen should not be charged the $604.80 when the property was in litigation. Lester also felt the project needed some sort of a deadline in order to extend the permit, and suggested extending the permit to December 31
Schauen asked for a number of how many other properties received lapsed permit extensions. The council members had no knowledge of the numbers. Schauen reiterated his and Confer’s property seemed to have been singled out.
Silvius stated that the hearing was for fact-finding purposes, and a formal request for a permit extension needed to be presented to the council on June 6. Silvius said that would allow Schauen to get a better idea for whether or not the project could be completed by the Dec. 31 deadline suggested by Lester,
No further action was taken by the council.

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

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