Grovertown woman says Planning Commission not enforcing Starke County building codes

GROVERTOWN — Betty Dotlich, of Grovertown, appeared before the Starke County Commissioners to get the status on a property located at 6690 East 250 North, Grovertown. Dotlich has made several appearances before the commission and Starke County BZA to lodge complaints about the structure and the fact that it is being used as a dwelling, which Dotlich said is against the county’s building codes.
“This structure was allowed to be brought in under the pretense that it was a Type I Manufactured Home. This structure was not built under any housing standards and does not meet minimum residential standards,” Dotlich said.
During last week’s meeting, Commission President Dan Bridegroom told Dotlich that the issue would need to go before the Planning Commission. Bridegroom also said the majority of things done in the county adheres to the county’s codes.
“Ninety-nine percent of what we do is based on state building codes. We adopted those codes last year for uniformity,” he said.
Dotlich said the home, which is owned by Julia Provalitis, doesn’t qualify as a dwelling, which is what the Provalitis’s are currently using it for.
“A Type I Mobile Home permit does not allow remodeling, altering the structure, etc. It simply allows the owner to have a licensed set crew bring the home onto their property and set it on the foundation and connect the utilities. In addition to it being a commercial unit, it is also clearly deemed as a salvage unit on the bill of sale. There were no plans of any kind submitted for any proposed changes to this unit even though it has been stated that this was the owner’s intent and would clearly be required based on current county and state codes,” Dotlich said.
Julia Provilitis also attended a previous commissioner meeting where Dotlich and three others initially lodged their grievance. However, Provalitis was in attendance as a spectator to the proceedings and did not participate in the discussion.
Dotlich said that the county is ignoring the very codes they spent tax dollars to create.
“When we moved here, there were essentially no codes in place. The county has spent a lot of tax dollars on the various boards’ time to establish codes and implement codes, but those codes are being ignored,” she said.
Dotlich said the BZA voted to revoke the permit for the structure—however, to date, she said nothing has changed.
“The owners are living in the structure without an occupancy permit. The BZA members clearly stated this was not to happen. The building inspector has been informed that this is happening, and yet it continues with no recourse. Why?? I was also informed that even though the BZA voted to revoke the permit on Dec. 1 at the special hearing on this matter, the permit is still in place and has not been revoked,” Dotlich said.
Dotlich said she has no problem with the BZA. She simply wants the matter to be resolved.
“I have no problem with the BZA. We were forced to go to the BZA with our complaint. We were told that the only way to address this was to pay the $200 and file an appeal through that board. The board ruled against the structure and ordered the permit revoked. We are still waiting for action to be taken on this ruling,” she said.
County Counsel Martin Lucas said he wasn’t sure if a neighbor has the authority to question what someone does on their property.
“”Who has the authority to complain about someone doing something on their property? Does a neighbor have to authority to object to a structure as violating a building code, they might. But I’m not sure if you can object to a neighbor — I’ll have to look into that,” Lucas said.
Dotlich said the Log Cabin Rule doesn’t apply either.
“The Log Cabin Rule is a portion of a state code that only applies if the property owner is building their own home on their property using no paid outside help. That means that any outside help has to be friends, etc., working for free and the homeowner is doing it pretty much on their own. They still have to meet codes and have inspections as needed. This structure was not built on the property owner’s lot. It was constructed prior to being brought to the lot and does not meet the requirements to fall under this code,” Dotlich said.
Bringing the structure up to code isn’t something Dotlich believes is impossible. However, she doesn’t think it’s worth the expense it would take to do it.
“I suppose it is possible to convert this to meet codes. However, it would not be economically feasible to do so. It would be very expensive to convert this to the proper roof pitch, fire codes, electrical codes, etc . . . The structure is deemed a salvage unit for a reason. The manufacturer’s website (Mark Line Industries in Bristol) clearly states that the structures they build are intended for use as ‘temporary office’ units. They are not intended to be permanent buildings and are not designed for long-term use,” she said.
Dotlich said all she wants is for the ruling by the BZA to be enforced. And for another permit on the structure to not be issued unless all the appropriate documentation and plans are provided.
Dotlich said she would also like the structure to not be used any longer as a dwelling.
“The owner needs to be forced to move out of the structure since there is no occupancy permit and they are clearly living in it. The codes clearly state that the county can implement fines for anyone in violation of the codes, and these need to be implemented. The codes also state that they can be forced to remove the structure and if they cannot show how they plan to bring it up to code that is what needs to happen,” she said.
By allowing the structure to remain Dotlich said it is lowering the value of surrounding properties and setting a bad precedent for the county.
“This structure is unsafe and an eyesore and is doing nothing but devaluing the properties that are already in place in the area. . . This is not the image that Starke County wants to promote so we are having a hard time understanding why it is okay for this to be brought in and why it is being allowed to stay.”