City files complaint on Letson
By RAYMOND L. SMITH
WARREN – A city building department official on Monday filed a complaint in municipal court against state Rep. Thomas Letson, D-Warren, on claims that he violated the city’s zoning codes by having what is being identified as a sober house at 3171 Foster Drive N.E., which is a residential neighborhood.
Letson, on Tuesday afternoon, said he had not been served with the violation notice and would not comment on a court filing that he has not seen.
Letson is scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. Sept. 4 in Warren Municipal Court on a misdemeanor charge of violating zoning codes
Letson inherited the house from his parents in June. He entered into a lease agreement with two men who use it to help those recovering from addictions.
According to the court filing, Letson “did occupy or allowed to be occupied the aforementioned property as other than permitted use in Residential A, which allows for single-family homes, house or dwelling.
”This constitutes an ongoing problem,” the complaint states.
Letson may be charged no less than $100 per day and no more than $500 per day for each day the house is under violation, according to the court document.
Councilman John Brown, D-3rd Ward, said people in the neighborhood are concerned that the property is not being used according to the zoning permitted in the area.
“It is a rental house, and none of our city ordinances are being adhered to,” Brown said. “It cannot be a rooming house without a variance. No one has requested a variance from the city.”
“Zoning protects the land use of our neighborhoods,” Brown said. “The use of this home seems to be temporary, not permanent. That is why (city Building Official) Chris Tanneyhill filed the original complaint.”
Earlier this month, Brown presented 21 letters to a zoning board meeting in which residents were able to voice their concerns about the property’s use. One neighbor, Natasha Frenchko, at the hearing claimed there is evidence of drug use in and around the house, increase traffic, and disturbances at the home.
Letson refuted this claim during the meeting, saying residents are routinely tested for drugs and alcohol as a condition of their housing. He said alcohol is strictly prohibited at the home.
Diane Hernandez, another neighbor, told the zoning board that the peacefulness of the neighborhood has vanished since the use of the house has changed.
Councilman Alford Novak, D-2nd Ward, said, “We had a similar house open in my ward about 15 years ago. They dug an open fire pit, people drove on motorcycles throwing out beer bottles, and the character of the neighborhood was changing.”
An increased police presence helped to eliminate the problem, Novak said.