Friday, April 4, 2014

City: Build sidewalk or face action

Ketchum homeowner says itís not his responsibility

Express Staff Writer

    The city of Ketchum has threatened to take criminal and civil legal action against property owner John Kanellitsas for refusing to build a sidewalk at 180 West Sixth St., a property where Kanellitsas has already finished rebuilding a house.
    Paul Fitzer, of the law firm Moore, Smith, Buxton and Turcke, has written two letters to Kanellitsas’ attorney Ben Worst, demanding Kanellitsas begin building a sidewalk along the property boundary.
    Fitzer cited city code, which says, “A city council or county commissioner may not permit an implied variance violative of land-use ordinances.” The code also unequivocally provides that a project applicant shall be required to pay for new sidewalk, curbs and gutters within the public right-of-way.
    “No staff member carries the authority to vitiate these requirements; actual, apparent or otherwise,” Fitzer said in his first letter.
    On Feb. 4, Worst wrote a letter in response, arguing that the city never explicitly told his client that he was required to build a sidewalk.
    “This is not a simple matter of a landowner attempting to renege on his commitment,” Worst said. “My clients spent over $200,000 on a building renovation project in reliance on the planning manager’s assurance that the city did not require them to construct a sidewalk.”
    Worst added that instead of resolving the internal dispute concurrent with design-review approval, the Planning and Zoning Commission deferred the decision until issuance of a building permit.
    “Mr. Kanellitsas made it clear that he was sick and tired of nobody at the city being able to give him a straight answer regarding the sidewalk,” Worst said. “He threatened to kill the project if he did not get an answer soon. The planning manager told Mr. Kanellitsas that the city no longer required any sidewalk, told Mr. Kanellitsas that the building permit had been approved and in fact issued the building permit.”
    Fitzer responded with a letter to Worst on March 14, unconvinced and insistent that it is still Kanellitsas’ responsibility to build the sidewalk.
    In the letter, Fitzer argued once again that a staff member cannot implicitly or explicitly excuse an applicant in complying with an ordinance in the city code.
    “Now that warmer weather is upon us, the city will not entertain any further delay of Mr. Kanellitsas’ completion of the sidewalk,” Fitzer said. “If he does not install the sidewalk within 30 days, the city will institute enforcement measures against him both criminally and civilly including but not limited to revocation of applicable permits, injunctive relief precluding the use or occupancy of the structure.”

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