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Lower Towamensing building issue to be decided in court

Published December 21. 2010 05:00PM

The building code official in Lower Towamensing Township has filed an action in Carbon County Court against Ronald F. Gilbert and Carol A. Withers, 4300 Little Gap Road, Kunkletown, contending the defendants have not met building code requirements relating to the Covered Bridge Inn, a restaurant at the same address.

Duane Dellecker, the plaintiff, in an action filed by Attorney James R. Nanovic, is asking the court to impose a fine of up to $1,000 for each day the alleged violations continue.

The suit claims Gilbert and Withers, husband and wife, on March 11, 2004, applied for a permit to erect a 20-foot-by-65-foot addition to the eastern side of the Covered Bridge Inn for purposes of enlarging the kitchen and dining area. The complaint says the zoning officer approved the application on April 4, 2004, with an effective date of April 9, 2004, for the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code, although the defendant did not commence construction until July, 2007.

After the zoning officer issued a stop order on Aug. 2, 2007, because the permit had expired, the defendants appealed the decision to the township's zoning hearing board, which on Dec. 19, 2007, approved the appeal and granted Gilbert and Withers an extension of time.

The complaint says the zoning officer also learned in the interim that the new addition to the restaurant was being placed in a location different than what was shown on the original application.

Dellecker says in the complaint the zoning officer reissued the permit for the addition to the west side of the building on Dec. 20, 2007, pursuant to the zoning hearing board's ruling. On June 8, 2009, Dellecker issued a stop order based on the township's ordinance that says a permit shall expire two years from the date of approval of the application.

The suit claims the reissued permit expired on Dec. 20, 2009. It says on Feb. 16, 2010, Dellecter sent a violation notice/stop work order to the defendants, who did not appeal the notice.

The notice/stop work order says the defendants failed to secure the necessary building permits to allow an addition to be erected in violation of the Construction Code, adopted by the township on April 13, 2004.

Despite having received the notice, the suit contends the defendants have continued work on the structure, including walls being constructed, floor joists being installed and electrical and plumbing work having been performed.

The defendants, the suit says, have stated they are grandfathered from the Construction Code, although the plaintiff contends the defendants must still have applied for and followed the requirements of the Fire and Panic Act.

The plaintiff argues the defendants are in violation of the latter act as well as the township's ordinance. In addition to seeking the fine of up to $1,000 per day, the plaintiff asks the court to issue an injunction restraining the defendants from any further construction at the site without first obtraining the Construction Code permit.

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