There’s a legal battle ongoing over a large backyard shed in Paradise that will likely cost the owner to relocate it or build a new one.
One corner of the shed is too close to the rear property line, in transgression of town regulations.
That much all agree on.
The shed was built in its current location 19 years ago, but the issue of its improper placement did not come to light until the property was sold in 2014.
The new owner, Paul Perham, has tried for four years to get a “letter of tolerance” from the town for the shed.
The town has refused.
After meetings, phone calls, email exchanges, letters, orders and appeals, the town filed an application last November with Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court asking the court to confirm “the town’s ability to carry out the relocation of a non-compliant accessory building situated at 4 Hickey’s Road and recover the costs as a civil debt.”
The case is expected to be heard in court in the coming weeks.
“I bought the property four years ago and everybody was of the understanding that I would get the tolerance for the shed, including the lawyers for the previous homeowners and the lawyers that I had when I bought the house,“ Perham said. “The shed has been there 19 years. It was built in 1999.
“The mayor (Dan Bobbett) is 100 per cent against it and, I believe, the reason is because Coun. Debbie Quilty owns the land behind me and they are pushing the mayor — the mayor says they are not pushing — but they are pushing to make me buy land off them. But the shed is on my land and the land between me and them, where they can build, is all conservation area. The closest house or shed to my shed is about 1,000 feet. My neighbours do not have any problem with the placement of the shed.”
A casual observer visiting the property on the quiet Paradise road would likely wonder what all the fuss is about. It’s a spacious backyard and beyond the shed at the rear of the property the land rises, apparently built up over the years with fill. There appears to be nothing the shed would interfere with.
So why no letter of tolerance?
In legal documents supplied to The Telegram from the Town of Paradise and from Perham, the history of the shed is laid out.
The former property owners obtained a permit in 1999 for an accessory building measuring 24 feet by 28 feet with a proposed rear setback of three metres from the rear lot line.
In preparing for the sale of the property in 2014, the previous owners obtained a real property report that identified the shed placement problem. One corner of the shed is just .34 metres from the rear lot line. The minimum allowable setback per the town’s development regulations is 1.2 metres.
The previous owners applied for a letter of compliance for the property on Oct. 29, 2014 before finalizing the sale to Perham. At that time the town advised the previous owners that the shed placement did not meet regulations.
The previous owners then, on Nov. 10, 2014, withdrew their request for a letter of compliance. The town followed that up by stating that because the shed was in non-compliance with the regulations, it had to be corrected by June 1, 2015.
The previous owners appear to have made no further efforts to rectify the problem, and the property sale went ahead.
On Nov. 19. 2014, Perham wrote to the town to request a letter of tolerance for the shed. Documents show that Perham became owner of the property on Nov. 21, 2014.
“In a privileged meeting on Dec. 16, 2014, town council considered and refused (Perham’s) tolerance request for the accessory building in its current location,” the documents read.
The town claims Perham knew the shed was not in compliance with the regulations when he purchased the property and failed to straighten the matter out with the previous owners.
Because the shed is still not within regulations, the town made the application to the court.
The town’s application states that when it contacted Perham he “advised (the town) he had no intention of relocating the accessory building into compliance with the development regulations.”
“(Perham) has not taken any steps to relocate the accessory building into compliance … and remains in contravention of the relocation orders,” the court documents state.
It is not known if the previous owners — at the time the shed was being constructed — were aware it was being built non-compliant to town regulations, or if the builders had not paid close enough attention to the original plans for its placement on the property.
Perham, however, said he shouldn’t be punished for it.
In fact, it was his understanding in a meeting with town representatives, including the mayor, that the issue would be resolved.
He later learned his request for a letter of tolerance was again refused.
“People who look at the property tell me it’s mind-boggling that (the town) is doing this,” Perham said. “This has got so blown out of proportion. It’s only one corner of the shed and it’s not interfering with anyone.”
Perham said what irks him most is that he is aware of other properties in Paradise with accessory buildings not in compliance with the regulations and the owners have been issued letters of tolerance or, he believes, the town has turned a blind eye to it.
In fact, he presented the town council with a number of examples, he said.
Perham claims there is something more going on with his case.
“For 15 years it was no problem and now that I have it, it’s a problem,” he said.
Paradise town councillors whom he contacted and invited to visit the property to view the shed did not respond to his invitations, he said. One councillor, he noted, told him he did visit the property when Perham wasn’t home, but later admitted that he, in fact, had not gone to the property.
“This is what you are dealing with,” Perham said. “I’ve gone to meetings where I left with the impression it would be straightened out only to be informed again that it was refused.
“I addressed the council and I got two votes (out of seven council members) to keep the shed there, and the deputy major voted against it, but the next morning she called me and said she couldn’t sleep because of the way she voted.”
Perham said he considered buying some land from the Quiltys to resolve the issue in that manner, but felt the price was too high for the piece of land he needed.
“It’s only one corner of the shed that’s at issue,” he said.
Perham said he also offered to cut the corner off his shed to meet the regulations if the town would come to his property after and inspect it.
The town refused, he said, and told Perham that he would have to obtain another real property report.
“I got the land surveyed to see how much of the shed would need to be cut off, but the town said I’d have to pay to get another real property report done after. They wouldn’t even agree to come inspect it. They won’t work with me,” Perham said. “This is a crazy situation. It has really got to me and my family, and is a burden on us.
“All they say is either move the whole shed, cut the corner off or buy a piece of land off the Quiltys.”