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. 

Click here for related articles. 

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

devilsadvocate

Zoning laws are to protect the citizens of the neighborhood - so you don't get a Strip Joint next to you, a 24 hour firework store, or so you don't get a group of pedophiles living next to you for a week. Or four families with two kids each living in a 3 bedroom house partying it up all night. Yes, you should be able to do what you want with your property - within reasons for the neighborhood and neighbors. Ebner and his group took advantage of a badly worded document that has been in place for decades. At least now it is corrected for the future but he gets by on a loophole. I believe he was a certified realtor which he knows the residential properties aren't rented out by the day. I wonder if he does pay the bed tax, plus if his mortgage and insurance people know what he is doing.

gene44870

what does stripe joints have to do with someone renting there home out and it costing the city 50,000.00 to stop ? The fact of the matter it has nothin to do with it . Now as far as perverts is concerned , they are everywhere and the Goverments allow them to live where they want as long as certain conditions are met

Nemesis

@devilsadvocate:Zoning laws are to protect the citizens of the neighborhood - so you don't get a Strip Joint next to you, a 24 hour firework store,

This is not about non-residential use, unless you know of vacation renters operating a retail business out of one of these houses. Strike one.

@devilsadvocate:or so you don't get a group of pedophiles living next to you for a week.

We have one on our street, in an owner occupied house. Strike two
@devilsadvocate:Or four families with two kids each living in a 3 bedroom house partying it up all night.

As in, one owner-occupant family having their relatives over for a week? Again, not a function of the transaction by which someone occupies the house. Three fallacies knocked down.

@devilsadvocate:Yes, you should be able to do what you want with your property - within reasons for the neighborhood and neighbors.

The neighbors have no right to make it their business who stays in your house, or by what transaction. The neighbors have a right to the quiet enjoyment of their own property. Until someone on your property engages in CONDUCT that materially violates those rights, their business ends at the property line. If and when such conduct takes place, there are existing laws to cover it.

@devilsadvocate: I wonder if he does pay the bed tax, plus if his mortgage and insurance people know what he is doing.

in order, it's not a hotel, it's none of the mortgage lender's business, and his insurance company knows he's not living in the house, hence it's a rental. Any more fallacies you'd like to put up?

pavedparadise

There outta be a law.... Nemesis

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.

Nemesis

"There oughtta be a law"

That's the motto of fascists everywhere. There is absolutely no sound basis for such a move without applying it to all rental housing. Metro-subsidized monthly or annual rental homes contribute far more negative externalities to the community than do vacation rental properties.

Beside that, it would be a simple matter to have vacation renters sign a month or year long lease and reduce the weekly rent by the amount of the deposit forfeited for breaking the lease and some ridiculously low bar for the landlord to break the lease after one week if they opt to stay and he has another renter on the way. Thus your law is rendered impotent.

The bottom line is it's none of the city's business who you let stay in your house, or what your relationship to them is. Some Cassanova who has a new live in girlfriend each week is essentially providing a vacation rental where the rent is taken out in personal services. If I have a houseguest for a week who takes me out to dinner every day, that's essentially an exchange of value for housing.

If the renters misbehave, then there are laws to deal with that - laws that apply equally to vacation renters, long term renters, and owner occupants, all of which have been known to misbehave to the detriment of the neighbors.

pavedparadise

The man from Mars has spoken

Rich Close

So, it’s ok to have strip clubs, druggies and pedophiles on Curran Street? It appears to many that those complaining on Cedar Point had political connections who know they can get away with spending $50k to support their buddies, while at the same time it appears Arnold had the same connections and recieved a form of executive privilege. Many feel this city is a "The Good Old Boy System', and this case has more than proved it to me, and it also shows the Tone had the fortitude to not side with the typical scratch my back attitude; I'm impressed with the Judges ruling which showed character to go against his friends in higher places. I believe the City is showing their bias and unethical and underhanded actions concerning the homeowners of the Hopper Trailer Court as well, hopefully that will appear before Tone BEFORE the people loose their homes, maybe Tone will sign an order to delay the shut off until it goes to court, which is the humanitarian thing to do.

samiam

Wonder if Ebner is planning to rent out his new property along Cedar Point parking lot, couple houses down from Kinzel's.

Julie R.

Why doesn't the city of Sandusky take it all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court like the Huron River Greenway property owners did when the joke 6th District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Metroparks and their Lorain County law firm of Stumphauzer & O'Toole? The city commissioners should have known they would lose. The former mayor of Vermilion Jean Anderson also lost at the county level (Binette) and then lost her appeal with the 6th District Court when she filed a lawsuit against Vermilion, it's law director, and the law director's Lorain County law firm of Stumphauzer & O'Toole when they refused to provide itemized copies of what they were charging the Vermilion taxpayers, but she didn't lose at the Ohio Supreme Court level.

I say go for it, Sandusky city commissioners.

8ballinthesidepocket

Talk about ridiculous litigation, that would be it. But then I consider the source of who wants to take it to the supreme court. They wouldn't even hear a frivolous case such as this one.

Sandusky.champion

"Renegade" property onwers??? What kind of judgemental college level journalisom is that? Stick to the facts.

OSUBuckeye59

How did this become an issue? Who brought it to the attention of the City? Has crime spiked? Have police calls increased?

My uncle has owned a home on the Chaussee since the 60's. Even though I haven't visited him in years (I live out of State), I remember all the homes being of higher $$ value. And he's often said if he sold his home today, with the land value being significantly higher than the home value, the new owner would most likely tear down all but one wall of the home and build totally new. My point? Homes and properties on the Chaussee are for the most part, if my memory serves me correctly, expensive. If this still holds true, I wouldn't expect a Ft. Lauderdale Spring Break Beach group of college kids being able to afford a Chaussee address home, nor are the amenities too close by for that type of tourist.

As others have written, with Sandusky promoting tourism, more forward-thinking city leaders should embrace those that can afford the weekly rate on a Chaussee home, and set regulations while also collecting the additional tax revenue.

Perhaps this is a case of one or more long-time Chaussee homeowners upset seeing families coming and going from one or more homes on a weekly basis? Or maybe there's fear of long-time owners that more homes will quickly enter the vacation rental pool such that the Chaussee will become even more congested in the summer during summer days than it already is, if that's even possible?

Still wondering what event set the legal wheels in motion...

gene44870

You know this is why sandusky is the way it is , cause the goverment dont want to see the residents have any rights , Thats why you see some much more crime and a lot of good people not to mention good jobs leaving the Sandusky , I know I am one of them that is leaving. And cant wait , .
I am tried of goverment waste at the city level and the representives using the police and fire hostage to get levies passes and saying they are going to cut the things that the City residents depend on to live in this city safely .
And if the city would use common sense they wouldnt get into the things that they do at the tax payers expense , and would take into account that you will never have a good city as long as you have representives that take no responsablity for the ruling they make that affect the people of Sandusky
You have more murders in sandusky then just about any other place of the same size and nearly double the national avarage for a city this size and are doing nothin to help the city to gain respectable jobs that will help deter the crime in this city .
Its a real shame about Sandusky , cause this is the twon that I was born and raised in and have been in all my life , but I have never seen a town that would depend on a place that is only open a few months out of the year {Cedar Point} and do nothin to help get full time year round jobs for area people .
Wake up city goverment , and start thinking year round and not just seasonal .The sooner you do the better off you will be , I have a feeling that if you have better jobs at better pay , you might just help the city and the city coffers .
I know that when I read the web site of the register I find that the two best employers are on the verge of shutting the doors , it should be waking the goverment up and getting them to do what is needded to help save the jobs , but yet they do nothin .
I know I am getting off base with the story base , but its cold hard facts that are being place in the closet instead of being dealt with like it should be .I know a lot of people will disagree with this and I am hoping that some will agree . but if not well lets just say I am glad I am leaving
oh and one other thing , stop and think about it , what good could 50000.00 as well as the money lost at the trailer park do ?It could have helped repair streets in sandusky or hired another police officer or something else that would benifit the residents of sandusky , but now what is doing ? lining a lawyers pocket while the streets get worse as well as crime is on the rise due to the lack of police presents .

OSUBuckeye59

@gene44870,

I've lived in numerous cities since leaving Sandusky after graduating high school in the late 70's, and have found in my travels that each city has its warts and blemishes along with some sunny spots. Some cities do well in offering tax incentives (translation: tax break) tied to hiring to either attract new businesses or keep existing ones, but for every business tax break there are those who lament they get no respite from yearly increases in personal property taxes along with the yearly decrease in local school funding.

For the past 13 years I've resided in a small northwestern Oregon city with a population of roughly 22,000 people. Some of the decisions made by the Major and City Council, or by folks in the City Planning/Zoning office leave myself and others scratching our heads while other decisions we applaud.

Crime in our city? Yes, we have it, and according to a crime index report, we have a rating of 28 out of 100, with a 100 rating be safest. For a city of 22,000 people, the 28/100 rating isn't good at all yet the area of the city in which I reside is one of the least "crime-riddled", so to speak.

But all-in-all, the economy in Western Oregon is doing well. Outside of Western Oregon, not so much, mainly due to the timber industry's continued cutbacks as lawsuits and regulations on timber cutting seem to be scaled back every year while our neighbors to the north in Canada grow their economy as they supply the lumber for increased demand.

But when I look at Sandusky, other than tourism jobs in the summer, what growth industry can Sandusky support? Sandusky's year-round business history has been closely tied to the automotive industry with the Big Three, and also machining, both light and heavy-duty. I remember my father worked for a time at Barr Rubber, then was hired by New Departure, where he worked until retirement age. And whereas Sandusky could offer tax incentives, what in the way of a skilled labor force can the area offer? What about low-cost energy sources? Buildings? Land?

The 'Silicon Forest' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sil...) west of Portland traces its roots to Tektronix and Electro Scientific Industries. Intel later came along in 1974, growing to where the company now has its single largest geographical concentration of employees with over 17,000 in the area. Other companies have either located to the area, or were created in the area as a result of the highly-educated and high-trained talent pool. Today, Portland remains a hotbed for software start-ups. And there's also Nike's main headquarters in a suburb of Portland called Beaverton. In December of last year, Oregon's Governor Kitzhaber called an emergency Legislative special session to make sure Nike would not only stay but expand in Oregon when Nike backed Oregon into a corner by saying how other States were courting them. In return for job growth, the Oregon legislature quickly made sure the tax break structure Nike enjoyed would not be changed. And as much as some might wail that Oregon's elected officials caved in, the flip side is the continued tax and spending revenue Oregon and local businesses maintain as a result of the Nike employee base staying and expanding.

Again I ask, what can Sandusky offer in the way of tax relief and labor force and land and energy and buildings and other tangible incentives to create, maintain and grow jobs in the area?

Nemesis

@Gene44870:"You know this is why sandusky is the way it is , cause the goverment dont want to see the residents have any rights ,"

Apparently city government aren't the only ones. According to you, they shouldn't even be allowed to OWN these homes, let alone rent them out:

"No one person should be permitted to build along the lake and bay front and it should be respected as public property "
-Gene44870 Mon, 06/17/2013 - 9:12pm

OSUBuckeye59

@Nemesis,

If Gene44870 did write the "No one person should be permitted . . .", that might be all well and good in terms of the general public having easy access to the lake and bay front, but it then creates a burden upon a city, county or the state for the upkeep of said property. Of course the trade-off of allowing private land boundaries to extend to the water creates the problem of home owners potentially being able to build fencing down to the water's edge at worst or having folks arrested should they "trespass" at best. As always, every land-use decision has its positives and negatives.

Nemesis

Buckeye:
This country was founded on certain principles. Central to them are property rights. Feudalism is over, and the king doesn't get to claim all the good land for himself. The current law DOES allow for such trespassing actions, and if you doubt it, anchor off the beach at Cedar Point, and go ashore to sunbathe.

However, that's not the point. The point is that Gene just complained that the city won't respect the rights of citizens, rights which he argued don't exist in another thread.

Darkhorse

The Chaussee people think they should be the exception to the rule when it comes to rentals in their area while the rest of us are surrounded by rentals and more rentals. There are way too many rentals in this area and the city needs to strive for more home ownership.

LadyC

At least the vacation rental tenants aren't using government funds to live there (Metro), they leave after a fairly short time, and in order to make money from renting them, the owners must be keeping up the property. Sounds like a win-win to me. Most of the hotel/motels are outside the city limits, are owned by some huge chain that hires cheap foreign labor, and the tenants are tourists that clog up 250 daily. The city needs to focus on more important things.

Julie R.

Why would anybody go out and buy a two or three hundred thousand dollar house just to use as rental property in the summer months? The insurance alone would have to be outrageous. So are these houses also rented out during the winter months? If not, you won't find too many insurance companies around that would even insure a house that nobody is living in, but if by some chance one did the insurance would probably be triple.

OSUBuckeye59

@Julie R,

You might be surprised at the potential ROI of purchasing a $200-300k home with prime Lakefront access in a well-kept area with primary usage as a vacation rental during the summer season, especially if you set a rental requirement of a 1 week minimum stay. And if you declare the home's primary usage as a rental, renters insurance is, to put it frankly, cheap. Even if the property isn't rented in the most severe winter months, a multi-bedroom, beautiful home will all amenities quite literally across the street from Lake Erie, and with easy access to Cedar Point could potentially have a one-week rental cost that would cover the monthly mortgage/utilities/taxes/insurance sum cost. And per the following website, http://www.calcpa.org/content/co..., there are depreciation and other costs one can deduct on a rental property.

Julie R.

Did the owners to these properties on Cedar Point Road actually go through a bank and take out two and/or three hundred thousand dollar loans just to buy these properties and use them as rentals during the summer months ....... or were these properties part of an estate? The few I checked out on the auditor and recorder's websites looked to be part of estates and the information given ~ or should I say the lack of information given ~ looks fishy as all get out. A cover up for fraud on the properties, maybe? (believe me when I say I know what the online records look like when covering up fraud) A couple of the rentals on Curran Street look fishy, too.

I also don't believe for a minute that renters insurance is cheap on two & three hundred thousand dollar homes rented out to vacationers during the summer months. Neither do I believe that insurance on two & three hundred thousand dollar houses that sit empty in the winter months is cheap. Most insurance companies balk at giving out insurance on houses that nobody is living in. After all, what if there's a fire? If nobody is living there the house could burn to the ground before anybody even notices it. Yet you say one can get insurance CHEAP on these expensive houses that nobody lives in during the winter? I don't believe it.

Nemesis

That's because you don't understand insurance.

Homeowners' insurance covers a number of things, among them, the clients' belongings in the house. The more expensive the house, the more likely it is that the value of the owners' belongings will exceed the value of the building. People who buy high end homes tend to hang high end art on the walls, furnish them with rare antiques, and have expensive jewelry, technology products, etc. With rental property insurance, the insurer is off the hook for all that stuff. Another big chunk of homeowners' insurance is liability coverage - homeowners can be sued these days by a burglar who is injured trying to break into their house. However, the last time I looked at a the paperwork for a vacation rental, it included a release that severely limits such liability. So insurance on a rental home involves far less risk than for an owner-occupied home. Rebuilding a house that burns down is not a big deal. Construction costs are low - most houses could be built for less than their market price, partially because the land value is removed from the equation. Replacing the stuff in it, and paying personal injury claims for accidents on the premises - that's the long pole in the tent. As for the house being vacant during the winter, most insurance companies are agnostic about that. They assume a rental property will have periods of vacancy between tenants. Until the vacancy exceeds half of the policy term, it's not a big deal.

Julie R.

You sure seem to know a lot about rental properties. Do you have a lot of rental properties or did you take a 6-month course and become a realtor? If so, do you know if property with serious defects in the title caused by fraud can't be sold through normal channels until the fraud is cleared up, neither can it be sold at scam court-ordered sheriff sales? If you don't believe it, call up any title company around. You might even call some banks and ask if they would ever give out a loan on property involved in fraud. You might even call up some bottom-feeder lawyers. You might even check the Ohio Laws that the jokes at your Erie County courthouse don't know how to follow.

Nemesis

I have gone through the process of converting insurance on a property when ceased living in it, and so I am familiar with the various types of properties and their implications.

I really don't care about the various details of your personal problems. I did at first, but I stopped giving a rat's behind about your alleged problems after about the 50th thread you tried to hijack to be all about you. My apathy changed to suspicion when you started contradicting yourself, as you are doing right now. You say here that what you claim happened cannot happen, and once again your credibility sinks even lower. And yet you persist.

I've read every sordid detail of your story 20 times by now. Everybody here has - we don't need a refresher. What I would like to know are straight answers to a 4 questions:

-What has your ranting accomplished here?

-What do you hope it will accomplish?

-What would you like to see happen regarding your situation?

-How is your current behavior supposed to make that happen?

Julie R.

How have I contradicted myself? I said property with serious defects in the title (i.e. fraudulent transfer of the 1st elderly owner's half seven months before her death) can not be sold through normal channels until the defects are cleared up and neither could the joke courts force it to be sold at a scam sheriff sale under a preliminary judicial report that falsely stated there were no defects in the title ----- but they sure did!

Nemesis

Precisely - you said something could not happen, and that it happened. Now answer the questions.

OSUBuckeye59

@Julie R

I mused on my previous reply, then called my insurance agent and had a great chat about rental property insurance.

To be fair, there are definite instances where a property used primarily for rental purposes can have expensive insurance costs, but in general, for all the reasons Nemesis clearly outlined, the cost to insure a home to be used primarily as a rental will still be lower than insuring that same home if it is the primary residence. So insuring a Chaussee-area home, assuming the home's RMV is $300k or greater, and given the propensity for winter storm flood damage being greater than if the home was located within a couple of miles of, say, Plum Brook Country Club, the cost to insure the Chaussee-area home would probably not be too cheap, but again, it would still be cheaper than if the owner chose to have the home be their primary residence.

Julie R.

When it comes to property in corrupt Erie County, I wouldn't believe anything they say about these rental properties. I'm not talking about the rentals where people went through normal channels to obtain them --- meaning they went through a bank who would have required a title search before approving a loan ---- I'm talking about the ones that did not go through a bank.

The jokes in Erie County have lots of sneaky ways to cover up fraud on property and I know for a fact my mother's property was by far not the only one.

Nemesis

Yes, Julie, they're EVERYWHERE. They're always watching. Better put on your tinfoil hat, because otherwise they can read your brainwaves from that unmarked van parked down the street or that black helicopter overhead. If you don't stop trying to expose them, they could come and take you away in the middle of the night, and the only way we'd know is you wouldn't be here constantly trying to make every thread about your tale of woe.

Pages