Alamance County clerk of superior court Meredith Edwards has entered an order to allow an appeal of a decision by Burlington’s Board of Adjustment to order the closure of a boarding house at 614 Maple Avenue for failure to comply with the city’s ordinances.
Burlington’s board of adjustment concluded earlier this year that the property at 614 Maple Avenue hadn’t been zoned for that use.
The property owner, Andrews Properties of the Triad, filed a petition for a writ of certiorari/appeal in superior court two weeks ago. Last Wednesday, Edwards entered an order allowing the appeal to proceed.
State law provides for an appeal of decisions made during quasi-judicial hearings of decision-making boards – in this case, the city of Burlington’s Board of Adjustment (BOA).
In its petition, Andrews Properties contends that a Zoning Certification, issued by the city’s inspections department on January 28, 1998, had allowed the boarding house to operate at 614 Maple Avenue before and since Andrews bought the property in 2017, according to the petition.
The Zoning Certification that Steven Andrews of Andrews Properties presented to Burlington’s BOA at a hearing on February 22 indicated that the property had been zoned Office & Institutional (OI) in 1998 to allow for the boarding house use.
During the hearing before the board of adjustment, an attorney representing the city for the case, Sherri Hamlett, appeared to question the validity of the Zoning Certification. The board of adjustment later voted 4-1 to deny Andrews’ appeal, upholding an earlier decision by Burlington’s code enforcement staff that the boarding house at 614 Maple Avenue lacks the legal basis to continue operating at that location.
In its petition, Andrews Properties claims the board of adjustment based its decision “on conclusions unsupported by factual data, those being speculative assertions, mere expressions of non-expert opinions, and hearsay evidence…The Burlington BOA purported to consider the evidence presented at the Appeal Hearing, but reached different conclusions not supported by the evidence and not consistent with past rulings, such as, among other things, finding that the Property was never zoned OI despite the Zoning Certification.”
Burlington’s code enforcement staff had previously ordered the closure of another boarding house that Andrews Properties owns, at 504 West Webb Avenue, last year. A superior court judge subsequently remanded that decision to the board of adjustment, due to irregularities in which testimony was given in the case, via an online hearing amid the ongoing pandemic.
The order that Edwards has entered gives the city 45 days from April 13 (i.e., until late May) to either agree upon or submit “alternative records” in the case.
The statute outlining the appeals process for quasi-judicial decisions defines “alternative records” as: any documents and exhibits submitted to the board whose decision is being appealed, along with the minutes, transcripts, and/or recordings of any meeting at which the matter was considered. The statute also provides for the petitioner and respondents to agree on which parts of the record to file with the clerk of court’s office, or to submit all records related to the decision.
After that, the case will be scheduled for a hearing in superior court, according to Edwards’ order.
Meanwhile, Andrews Properties has also filed a lawsuit in Alamance County superior court that asks a judge to force the city to furnish documents he had previously sought to obtain through a public records request that was filed with the city in May 2021. The plaintiffs in that case, who are being represented by attorney Randolph James of Winston-Salem, allege that Burlington city officials have yet to furnish the documents.
The city has been granted an extension of the deadline to file a response to the public records suit. That deadline is now set for May 6, according to the court file.
Amanda Hodierne and Ben Rafte of the Isaacson Sheridan law firm in Greensboro are representing Andrews Properties for the appeal.