St. Louis broadcaster locked in legal battle over neighbor's hom -

St. Louis broadcaster locked in legal battle over neighbor's home addition

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A battle over a home addition is heating up in the small municipality of Crystal Lake. Credit: KMOV A battle over a home addition is heating up in the small municipality of Crystal Lake. Credit: KMOV

Two families in one of St. Louis County’s smallest suburbs are locked in a legal battle with no end in sight.

Jim Hayes is suing his neighbors Rob and Carol Ann Giovando over a home addition that is built near his property line in Crystal Lake Park, a community next to Frontenac and Town & Country with fewer than 500 residents. The lawsuit also names the City of Crystal Lake Park and the city’s Board of Zoning Adjustment. 

So far, Crystal Lake taxpayers have spent $17,700 defending the lawsuit filed by Hayes. The city is budgeting up to $60,000 for legal related expenses in 2018. 

The issue began when the Giovandos were issued a city-approved variance to construct an addition that includes a master suite along with a four-car garage. After the project started, a construction error was discovered: The addition violated the city-issued variance because it was constructed too close to the Hayes property line. 

The Hayes family, the Giovandos, and the mayor of Crystal Lake Park agree the home violates the variance but neither property owner agrees on how to resolve the issue. 

Hayes calls the project “a warehouse in my backyard.” 

The Giovando’s tell News 4, “We were trying to make a showplace.” 

The Giovando’s log cabin style home sits along Bopp Road and is currently wrapped in tarps to protect the addition from rain and snow. 

A building inspector shut down construction in September 2016 for violating the city-issued variance. 

Hayes takes issue with the variance and the process that led to its approval.

“This would have never been allowed next to the mayor’s house,” said Hayes. 

Mayor Phillip Bryant said, “We have small lots, I don’t see this out of character for the neighborhood.” 

According to Bryant, Hayes was notified about public meetings involving the approval of the variance.

“The Hayes were given notice three times by email this meeting was going to occur. They chose not to attend the meeting.” Bryant said. 

Hayes said the notification arrived in the form of a city newsletter that includes information about “Christmas Carols, and pooper scooper laws” and adds “you don’t look at it. That’s not notification.” 

According to Hayes’ lawsuit, the city’s notification policy is clear. 

The notification policy requires the board “send notice via registered mail return receipt requested to owners of property owners located within 185 feet of property lines of the property at issue before the Board of Adjustments” if the property owners are not on the city’s emailing list.” 

Hayes says he never received a registered letter, and continues to take issue with notification in the form of an emailed city newsletter. 

Bryant also tells News 4 a “public hearing” sign was posted in the Giovando’s front lawn, along with a notice on a community bulletin board. 

Hayes says he didn’t see one either. 

The Giovando’s said they are willing to shave 12 inches off the addition to put the home back in compliance with the city approved the variance. They take issue with Hayes’ complaint and say he waited until the project was nearly complete before complaining. 

The project’s foundation, walls, roof, electrical and plumbing have been installed. 

“I don’t know why he waited so long,” said Rob Giovando. 

Hayes responded, “I see this thing going up. I thought it was a garage,” and added “I didn’t like it, it kept going up and up,” referencing the overall size and scope of the project.

On February 5, both sides attended mediation but no resolution was reached. 

In court, Hayes plans to argue the Giovando’s addition application to the city’s Board of Zoning Adjustment should have prevented the variance. On the application, the Giovandos responded yes to the following question:

Will granting the variance impair an adequate supply of light and air to the adjacent property? 

“Obviously, this is going to impact light, how could this not impact light,” Hayes said while sitting near the addition. 

News 4 Investigates asked the mayor about the variance application. 

Bryant said, “Any building is going to impact light, but is it going to significantly impact light?” 

Hayes also says the Giovandos were given “the maximum variance” allowed. 

He says variances are issued based on “hardship” and doesn’t understand the Giovando’s “hardship.” 

The mayor referred that question to the Board of Zoning Adjustment, but assumed it had something to do with “the way their home is situated.” 

The Giovando’s said, “The hardship lays with the land, it’s narrow and long.” 

All sides are at an impasse. 

Hayes wants the addition torn down. 

The Giovandos do not want to tear down the structure, saying they were granted approval to build it and point to the financial loss they would incur. 

Rob Giovando said, “Everything they say is deconstructed. They didn’t come to one meeting. I don’t see any accountability on their side.” 

Hayes responded, “If you’re not at a variance hearing the city can do whatever it wants. There are no rules to protect you and that’s wrong.” 

The Giovandos are optimistic about a solution being reached by the end of the year. They do not want to “move their wall in” until the case goes to court. 

Both sides have spent thousands on legal fees, which will continue to add up as the case prepares for trial. 

The situation has motivated Jim Hayes to consider running for alderman in Crystal Lake Park. His opponent would be his neighbor Carol Ann Giovando. (Note: Carol Ann Giovando was not an alderperson when the variance request was approved)

The election is scheduled for April 2018, just before the case could head to court. 

Copyright 2018 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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