Rappaports appeal Jerome zoning decision

Lawsuit will depend on Board of Adjustment ruling

JEROME - The Board of Adjustment will meet Thursday at 6 p.m. to hear an appeal filed by Elizabeth (Lisa) and Jack Rappaport. The Rappaports own a rental unit at 208 Fifth St. that they consider a duplex. But Zoning Administrator Bill Jensen says the legal use of the property is as a single-family residence.

The Rappaports filed a notice of claim with the town for $100,000 more than 60 days ago. That timeframe allows the Rappaports to proceed with a lawsuit if they decide to do so.

Tuesday morning, Lisa Rappaport, who serves on the Jerome Town Council, said that whether she proceeds with the suit or not likely will depend on how the board of adjustment rules Thursday night.

Typically, the Town of Jerome does not seek to discover illegal rental units in the single-family zoning area. Instead, these matters come up only after the town receives a complaint.

"A neighbor complained," Lisa said. "It's a complaint driven system."

Making this particular case more interesting is the fact that the town is currently considering an ordinance to allow some of the illegal rental landlords to obtain either legal non-conforming use status or conditional-use permits.

The idea behind the proposed ordinance is the general belief by citizens that Jerome currently has many "illegal" rental units. If so, those illegal landlords are not paying rental tax or their fair share for water usage.

The town council has been looking for ways to allow rental units - such as the one owned by the Rappaports - to become legal and then pay proper taxes and water rates.

During a recent meeting, which had the rental ordinance on the agenda, the town's attorney Kathleen Williamson explained that before the council can move ahead with the ordinance it will need factual findings. She explained that state laws involved in either non-conforming use or conditional-use permits can be complicated.

Ironically, the town's zoning administrator is in the position of taking action - based on a complaint - against the same type of rental unit the town council is seeking to make legal.

The Board of Adjustment meets in council chambers at the Jerome Civic Center, 600 Clark St.

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