City loses appeal

Sandusky spent $50K fighting renegade Cedar Point Chaussee property owners in court.
Andy Ouriel
Jun 19, 2013
The Chaussee property owners targeted by the city got vindication this week after two years battling with Sandusky's lawyers and other property owners over whether they had the right to rent out their swanky digs to tourists.
 
A ruling by the Ohio’s Sixth District Court of Appeals found Sandusky officials unlawfully attempted to restrict the property owners from letting others stay in their houses, affirming an earlier ruling by Erie County Common Pleas Judge Tygh Tone.
 
The ruling — rebuking city commissioners and Sandusky’s zoning appeals board — will allow Doug Ebner to once again lease his Chaussee property on a short-term basis to tourists visiting Sandusky. 
 
“As local property owners, we are pleased to see that the court of appeals chose to take a common-sense approach,” said Ebner, who battled the city in court. 

The city spent about $50,000 in the unsuccessful effort to limit Ebner and others, city finance director Hank Solowiej said. 

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The city launched the legal battle after other Chaussee property owners complained about Ebner’s short-term rentals.

It’s not known what direction city commissioners will take on the issue now.

They’re scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. Monday in City Hall, 222 Meigs St.

“They’ll want an explanation of what happened from (city-hired attorney) Bill Lang,” Sandusky’s law director Don Icsman said.

Lang handled most of the legal proceedings involving the Chaussee homeowners. It’s standard practice for commissioners to contract out legal work since the Sandusky’s law department only has three employees — a lawyer, paralegal and assistant.

Payback

Ebner said the city was fighting a losing battle from the beginning and should have known that. The city wasted $50,000, he said, and likely feels no remorse for the entire debacle.

“Because the city was playing with house (taxpayer) money, it was poised to continue to fight this fight when there was no real common-sense basis to do so,” Ebner said. “Unlike the city, myself and other property owners had to dig into their own pockets to defend these matters.”

Ebner said he wants restitution.

“Now that the final decision has been issued, I would hope the city would do the right thing and reimburse the property owners for the tens of thousands of dollars they spent in defending these prosecutions,” Ebner said.

Chaussee lawsuit timeline:

• Summer 2011: The Chaussee controversy started when city officials told several property owners they violated Sandusky’s zoning code by letting vacationers pay to stay at their homes. City-approved cease-and-desist letters ordered homeowners to immediately stop renting out properties or face criminal punishment.

• Fall 2011: Most homeowners tried appealing the order to Sandusky’s zoning appeals board. Board members, including chairman John Feick, eventually agreed with the city’s original ruling, restricting Chaussee homeowners from renting out their luxurious pads.

• January 2012: Curran Street residents Ann and John Arnold, who received cease-and-desist letters also, received a special permit granted by the city’s zoning board, allowing them to continue renting out their homes to tourists. Chaussee homeowners said they deserve the same treatment but never obtained it from board members.

• March 2012: Chaussee homeowners Doug, Mark and Julia Ebner threatened to file a lawsuit against the city.

• September 2012: Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Tygh Tone sided with the embattled homeowners, effectively overruling a previous decision by city officials. He cited the city’s definition of a transient or temporary rental is poorly written and vague.

• Fall 2012: Sandusky officials, including city manager Nicole Ard, appealed Tone’s decision by filing a case with Ohio’s Sixth District Court of Appeals

• November 2012: City officials altered Sandusky’s zoning code, limiting areas where local homeowners can rent out their homes to tourists as the lawsuit weaved its way through court. The change directly stems from Tone’s decision.

• June 2013: Appeals court judges sided with the homeowners and ruled against city officials.

“The fact remains that the trial court (in Erie County) did not err as a matter of law when it found that the language employed in that effort is unconstitutionally vague,” the ruling states.

 

Comments

Darkhorse

The city needs to get a better attorney and stop wasting tax dollars. The city just can't tell people what to do with their own property. The city needs to choose their legal battles carefully before they take action.

MrSandusky

No, the city needs to stop trying to police private property owners. As long as the proper taxes are paid (as excessive as they maybe), and nobody is being harmed why should the city or anyone else care what I do with or on my property?

SanduskyExpat

Another question relates to the rules in the Chaussee HOA. I'm wondering what the HOA thinks about renters and whether or not there are any restrictions to the timeframe in which these houses can be rented.

Rich Close

unless something has changed, not every property owner on the Chaussee belongs to the HOA. Its membership was and I believe still voluntary, its basically a group of owners who side to have polictical weight but has no power over the individual property owner. As I stated, unless something has changed. In this circumstance I believe the HOA basically funded money and letters to have more political weight. The HOA isn't like a condo association where they can dictate to anyone their desires or vote to force their desires upon anyone else.

deertracker

@Darkhorse
Agreed!

2cents

It should all have been spelled out in the city zoning manual. Property owners must follow the manual.

Mum-of-One

and so must the City, and that very zoning manual is frequently changed.

2cents

Not easy to go backward. Take the property along RT250 from Bogart to Mason. It is I1 industrial, zoned that way to spawn small business in the 1960's for NASA. It tends to be advertised as commercial but in reality one could open a steel mill!

lifetimeresident

City didnt loose out. We the landlords that pay for the taxes did.
Thanks

samiam

Do the property owners pay the bed tax when they rent out the properties? Do they pay the city income tax on their income from these rentals?

Nemesis

Bed taxes are for HOTELS. These are homes being rented with none of the services of a hotel. Are bed taxes collected on all rental housing in the city?

8ballinthesidepocket

Yes, yes, and guess what else? The people that rent these places spend a lot of money in the area.

deertracker

They probably don't even claim the rental income on their taxes!

Nemesis

Do you have any basis, other than your emotional resenting of these people, for that statement?

8ballinthesidepocket

No, he is just a jealous dolt!!

Darkhorse

The city can't even keep track of the Chespeake rentals for bed tax so how do you think they can collect from the Chaussee people? All untapped revenue.

Nemesis

Why should they be keeping track? The city has thousands of rental homes and apartments - do they pay bed tax? No, because, like the Chesapeake, they are not hotels.

pavedparadise

There outta be a law....

The city is good at changing the law. They lost this one so change the law to have these SHORT TERM rentals pay the bed-tax.

The Answer Person

HA HA!!!

blackjack82

As a vacation rental owner in Ottawa County, I applaud the courts for upholding property rights. I do pay bed tax, income tax, property tax, on the rental and the families come here to vacation spend thousands of dollars at local restaurants, stores, entertainment venues, etc. supporting thousands of local jobs. Sandusky has an economy based on tourism and we are trying restrict property rights to keep the tourist away?? Really!! Wake up and quit worrying that someone is making money off tourism and join in.

xdefiance's picture
xdefiance

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Profane, obscene, sexual or derogatory language.

WhyRweHere

$50K on this another $20K-$25K on appealing a terminated officer (which is next to impossible for them to win) where is all this money coming from?? I honestly feel that when ever Ard loses an appeal, the money spent should come out of her pocket, then maybe she would choose her battles more wisely....until then it's the taxpayers and actual home owners in sandusky who suffer, streets don't get fixed but she will continue to open the check book to an attorney...she's HORRIBLE!!

SamAdams

I'm not about to defend Ard here since there seem to be plenty of problems where her "management" of the City is concerned, but that being said, this is a legal issue. Ard isn't a lawyer. But the City's Law Director IS a lawyer. Before the City takes any kind of legal action, doesn't Mr. Icsman review it? Before the City amends ordinancs, doesn't he vet them? Sounds to me like this is the Law Director's bad, not the City Manager's this time around!

gene44870

why now waste 50,000.00 dollars ? Its not coming out of their pockets,
Is coming from Tax payers that are over taxed

PaulYall

Maybe the city should worry about how there gonna get there $50,000 from the trailer park instead of bankrupting the city worrying about something that doesn't hurt anyone! Seems to me that the priorities are a little bit out of order!

Darkhorse

$50,000 not collected from a water bill and $50,000 spent in legal fees for the Chaussee rentals equals $100,000 out the door. Can you imagine what $100,000 could buy. No wonder the city is broke all the time and looking for money.

gene44870

Agreed , and one thing that the residents need to do is remember this when nov elections come up

J Cooper

Once again the Register trashing the city, why don't we read an article about how much the county spends in litigation every year, oh I forgot wouldn't want to make two of the commissioners look bad.

gene44870

and this in my book is not trashing , but letting goverment waste come to light and let the tax payers know where and what they are spending their tax dollars on .
This is the reason Sandusky is in the shape they are in , and now they want us to believe that they need to borrow money to take care of roads that should have been taken care of years ago

J Cooper

Its trashing when one political subdivision, the city is always in the paper, when other political subdivisions who has similar issues are not making the press coverage, wonder why?

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