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New modular home causes stir in Cortland

Neighbors concerned house will drop their property values

CORTLAND — A new modular home being built at 147 St. Andrews Drive has brought multiple complaints and raised the ire of some neighborhood residents.

About 20 residents living on St. Andrews were in the crowd at last week’s city council meeting, and some made their concerns heard. Their point relates to the type of home being built and the consequences that may follow. Also, the residents are concerned about the home following city ordinances.

Homes in the neighborhood are upscale and valued at more than $200,000 in most cases, and $300,000 and above in some cases. Of the four homes closest to the new addition, the average valuation found on the Trumbull County Auditor’s website is $246,650 with the highest valuation being $287,700 and the lowest being $229,600.

The house in question cannot be valued yet because it is not complete.

For residents who addressed council, the modular home is a cause for concern because of property values, and how well the home will blend in with the surrounding homes. John Rossi, who filed a complaint with the city’s board of zoning appeals, asked what the residents can do to stop the home from being built.

“Is there anything of substance we can do today to dig into the issue?” Rossi asked.

Rossi cites an ordinance that dictates mobile or manufactured homes are only permitted in certain mobile home park districts approved by the city. In his complaint, Rossi wrote the home should be removed from the parcel immediately.

The company that purchased the property and is having the home built is Lewbay Enterprises LTD.

“Wherefore, the company (Lewbay Enterprises LTD.) is in violation of Cortland City Ordinance 1117.04 and other relevant sections and should be compelled by the City Zoning Administrator to remove said manufactured or mobile home sections from the parcel immediately,” the complaint states.

In the week prior to the meeting, the city received multiple complaints about the modular home. Rossi’s complaint, dated June 15, will be addressed in a board of zoning appeals meeting July 12.

BUILDER RESPONDS

Mayor Deidre Petrosky, in response, wrote a letter to the council members outlining the situation and if the home violates any zoning laws.

Petrosky, following a site visit found the home to be in compliance with the proper zoning statute. After speaking with the construction company, Hornbeck Construction, she was told the home is premanufactured, built off-site to the same standards of a new home built on-site, and is being built on a full basement. The letter states Councilman Jim Bradley saw and took pictures of the home placed on the basement.

Lewbay Enterprises LTD member Steve Lewis explained the home will be “no different” than ongoing home construction nearby.

“If you look at the guts of the home, and the full basement can be fully finished, you can find the construction materials and quality is no different than the home being built two doors down. The only difference is that it was built inside rather than outside,” Lewis said.

He added the situation is complicated further by two trailers that were in front of the house. “We’re fighting with the delivery people to get the trailers out of there,” Lewis said.

By Friday, the trailers were gone.

HAZY DEFINITIONS

Petrosky also wrote that the city’s ordinance is unclear in defining what a modular home is, versus a mobile home. The ordinance states: ” a mobile home or manufactured home means a structure designed and built to be transported in one or more sections on its own chassis, which is built on a permanent chassis whether or not the tongue or wheels have been removed and designed to be used as a dwelling with or without a permanent foundation when connected to the required utilities and includes the plumbing, heating, air conditioning and electrical systems contained therein: except as such terms shall not include travel trailers, travel motorized homes, pick-up coaches or camping trailers.”

The letter states the house was not built on a permanent chassis, rather it was moved from the chassis onto a permanent, full basement. Regarding the clarity of the ordinance, Petrosky said Councilman Richard McClain was asked to take the lead in updating the “appropriate sections to recommend to planning and zoning,” the letter states.

In response to some of the complaints filed throughout the week, Petrosky asked the residents to take a moment and see what the finished product will be.

“If it is like the house across the street as stated, the home values will be fine,” she wrote.

She offered some guidance for council to follow such as looking at the zoning code and the ordinances to amend or add new definitions for clarity’s sake, as well as informing residents they could form a homeowners association that would enforce deed restrictions that would require more specific regulations for someone wishing to build or move into the neighborhood.

BACKGROUND

According to the Trumbull County Auditor’s website, the property was sold by the Trumbull County Land Reutilization Corporation to Lewbay Enterprises LTD. Aug. 12, 2020. The sale amount was not available. The city’s law director Patrick Wilson explained the zoning permit was approved in November 2020.

“To put the timing of it in context, the issue of the zoning permit came before the service director in November. So she (Kim Blasco) approved it in November and they proceeded to get their building permit and that’s where we’re at today,” Wilson explained during the council meeting.

In Petrosky’s letter, she wrote the preconstructed home was delivered June 14, and work began that day and the next to be permanently set on a full basement foundation.

Lewis said the company purchased the property and came across the premanufactured homes. After a tour and seeing how the homes were built, Lewis is confident the home will be high quality and beautiful. What sits on the plot currently is only the beginning of the home, Lewis said.

“That’s just the core of the house. It’s not completed,” Lewis said. “It really will be a lovely home.”

Lewis noted the upcoming additions to the home will be a porch, a two-car garage, the siding will be stripped to add stone and the landscaping will be complete as well.

“It will be a beautiful home. I can’t tell you how disappointed we are with the reaction,” he said.

PUBLIC OUTCRY

Addressing city council, Harry King said he has lived in Cortland for more than 50 years, having moved throughout the city several times until building a house on St. Andrews. “Now, I’m questioning if I made the right decision,” he said.

King praised Petrosky for her feedback, and implored council to do its part to keep the “values of Cortland high.” King’s main concern with the new home is that it does not match the others.

“I’m sure all of you have gone up and looked at this home in question. Now tell me, does it belong there or did I just lose $100,000 of my house value?” King asked council.

David Whittenauer told council he chose to leave his former home in Hubbard and has lived in Cortland for about two years.

“I got crowded out by Section 8 housing, four-wheelers, firecrackers and beer parties, and I moved up here because I wanted exclusivity … We pay high taxes because we have high-dollar houses, so when you come down the street and see two halves of a house on a 12-wheel dolly trailer, you say to yourself, ‘What the hell? Did I just make a big mistake?,” Whittenauer said.

His concern is if this process becomes commonplace. “… if that is the preview of upcoming attractions, I want no part of it,” Whittenauer said.

Two lots down, a new home is being traditionally built on the property. Beverly Bartholomew and her daughter, Megan, the owner, also spoke up.

“We wouldn’t have advised her to buy that property and start building a beautiful home if we would have known. It’s one of the nicest neighborhoods and that’s why she chose it. Now we regret,” Beverly said.

” … had I known it was there to begin with, I would have never bought the lot — I would have never moved into that neighborhood,” Megan said.

Beverly also asked for council’s support during the July 12 meeting. Most residents said they would be present at the zoning appeal meeting. “Without you, our voice is small. With you, our voice is a lot bigger. We need that,” Beverly said to council.

In response, Councilman Bradley said: “My support will be this, that the zoning code and the zoning map should be reviewed. That’ll be my support. That’s me saying I think there’s something that can be changed.”

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