Rappaports lose zoning case appeal
Legal non-conforming use was never established
JEROME - In a unanimous vote, three members of the Board of Adjustment denied the appeal by Jack and Elizabeth (Lisa) Rappaport to the zoning administrator's decision that their duplex does not qualify for a non-conforming use under the current zoning ordinance.
One member of the board was absent, and Carol Yacht - who filed the complaint against the Rappaports' property - had to recuse herself and leave the hearing.
The three remaining members, Gary Shapiro, Joan Kennedy and Ron Richie, all voted to uphold the zoning administrator's decision.
Bill Jensen, Jerome's planning and zoning administrator, was called upon to make an interpretation under the zoning ordinance whether the property in question can be used as a duplex. His decision was that it cannot, based on two main points.
The first point was that the property was not designed or occupied as a legal non-conforming duplex in 1977 when the town adopted a new zoning ordinance. His second point was that even if the property had been a duplex at the time of the adoption of the new ordinance, such use of the property had been abandoned and now must conform to the current zoning laws. The zoning ordinance for the area in question is for single-family residences only.
Jon Paladini, attorney for the Rappaports, presented evidence and testimony that the property was built in 1920 and was designed for dual occupancy prior to the 1977 ordinance. Each unit of the two-story duplex had separate kitchens, sleeping quarters, outside stairways, bathrooms and living quarters.
Paladini said the records and the building show an intent to be used as a duplex from the beginning. He further argued that "renting isn't a zoning use." He said rental property is not a land use category.
Under oath, Lisa Rappaport gave testimony and showed plans that demonstrated that both kitchens, prior to the Rappaports' purchase of the property, had tin walls and ceilings.
"It was a typical Jerome two-unit home," Rappaport said.
Once the evidentiary portion of the hearing was closed, several audience members asked to be sworn in to make statements on the record.
Resident Rebekah Kennedy said she has lived on Third Street for 11 years, and she knows that Lisa Rappaport refused to rent the property as a single-family unit.
Rappaport said that was true, that she decided not to do anything with the property until the matter with the zoning administrator was final.
The Rappaports had filed a notice of claim with the town for $100,000 more than 60 days ago. That would allow the Rappaports to proceed with a civil case against the town.
Earlier in the week, Lisa Rappaport told the Verde Independent that the board of adjustment's decision would likely play a part in her decision whether or not to proceed with a lawsuit.
"It's clearly up to the Rappaports," said Paladini.
Rappaport said she will decide what to do later.
Her only comment following the board's decision was, "I'm not surprised by the outcome this evening."