By Russell Hood
The Webster Progress-Times
Eupora aldermen have revoked a building permit issued for a structure in a subdivision because of “inconsistencies and false information on it.”
The action came after discussion during two meetings at the Community Center, each attended by about a dozen citizens interested in the matter. The lot involved is at 652 Edgewood Drive on the west side of Whites Creek Lake off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
A related March 28 letter from Mayor Dan Burchfield to the property owner, James Rushing, reads:
“It has come to our attention that you have built a residence at 652 Edgewood Drive within the city limits of Eupora. This residence is in direct violation of the building permit you filled out, signed and purchased on Jan. 18, 2017.
“According to the permit you signed, you were to repair and add an addition to an existing boat (storage) building. This addition was to be approximately 40 square feet. This addition was to be a bathroom consisting of a toilet and walk-in shower. This permit clearly stated that this was not to be a residence.
“As to date you have built what looks to be a home. There is no ground-level double door for the housing of a boat or other normal equipment in the maintaining of your lot. Also, there is a mailbox which denotes a permanent occupied dwelling. In fact, as of today there is not a boat/storage building on the lot. There is a covered metal garage with a camper under it and a fishing pier.
“As a result, of this date, I am canceling this building permit and have referred this matter to the Board of Aldermen.”
The letter goes on to say that the board would discuss the matter at its April 3 meeting and advised Rushing to be there to explain the discrepancy in what is on his lot and that which he requested on his building permit.
“As explained in our meeting when issuing the building permit,” the letter continues, “subdivision covenants require a minimum of 2,200 square feet of heated area for an appropriate residence.
“As a result of the canceling of this permit, all construction of the … building is to stop immediately until further notice. It shall not be occupied. It shall not be used as a residence in any form.”
April 3 meeting
More than an hour of the board’s April 3 meeting was devoted to the matter as an informal public hearing. Rushing and his wife, who live in Choctaw County, attended, along with some Edgewood Drive/Whites Creek Lake residents and property owners. Aldermen Jerry Gary (at-large), Junior Shaw (Ward 1), Hugh Gibson (Ward 3) and Robert Gibbs (Ward 4) were also present.
Burchfield said the main question was if the new structure was a residence, to which Rushing replied, “Definitely not.” He and his wife said it would be used to store watercraft and that they would be cooking out there but would not let anyone spend the night there.
“My main concern is that I don’t want it set a precedent … for putting up sheds,” Edgewood Drive resident Tommy Gladney said during the public comment period, noting that many lots in the subdivision are still for sale.
“This is more than a storage building … or boathouse,” said Edgewood Drive resident Anita Goodrum, pointing out that it will have plumbing and utilities. “It’s a livable structure that’s …. below minimum footage.” She went on to say, “The covenant was written with the intent of residences on that side of the lake. … Is it suitable for a residence?”
Aldermen set a recessed meeting on the matter for April 10 to give board attorney Jacqueline Meek more time to research whether or not the structure met the definition of a boathouse or a residence.
In the meantime, Burchfield and the board members present were scheduled to view the lot with Rushing present on April 4. They agreed to go there in two groups (with the mayor going only once) at separate times so as not to have a quorum present at either site visit.
April 10 meeting
Aldermen Gary, Shaw, Gibson and Howard Rumore (Ward 2) were present at the April 10 meeting in the Community Center, in addition to Rushing and concerned citizens. Burchfield reported that board attorney Jacqueline Meek had researched the matter and recommended that aldermen go into into executive session “for the purpose of possible litigation” to discuss her findings. They did vote to do so and retired to the adjoining boardroom.
About 25 minutes into the closed session, the mayor called Public Works Director/Building Inspector Mike McCain into the boardroom. Aldermen returned to open session about 30 minutes later absent Gibson, who had to leave immediately after the executive session for a meeting of the School Board, for which he is attorney.
The mayor announced in open session that the board had agreed to revoke the building permit that had been issued to Rushing. The aldermen present then approved two motions by 3-0 votes.
The first motion, offered by Gary and seconded by Rumore, was to revoke the existing building permit issued to Rushing “because of inconsistencies and false information on it.”
The second motion, offered by Rumore and seconded by Gary, was that “the cease-and-desist order enforced by the March letter sent to Rushing is continued.”
Burchfield told Rushing before the board adjourned immediately afterwards to schedule a meeting with McCain. Although not known if this will affect the board’s ruling, Burchfield said Monday that Rushing has produced a new deed which was recorded after the original building permit was issued.