Swansboro will continue its effort to bring the Swannsborough Yacht Club property into compliance with town ordinances.
Drew Lutheran, owner of the property, died on Oct. 15. At the time, Lutheran was attempting to repair and renovate the property following significant damage in Hurricane Florence and the subsequent closure forced by state mandates in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
A request from Tideland News for comment on Lutheran’s death, relative to the negotiations concerning the property, brought a response from Michael J. Parrish of the Ward and Smith law firm. Ward and Smith represents the town.
“The Town of Swansboro was very sorry to learn of the recent passing of Drew Lutheran,” Parrish stated in an email. “However, the town has an obligation to ensure that property within its jurisdiction complies with the town’s ordinances. Because the property formerly owned by Mr. Lutheran remains non-compliant, the town’s pending lawsuit relating to that property will continue.”
While Lutheran was at work to resolve the problems with Swansboro, he was also embroiled in a similar situation in nearby Cedar Point concerning property he owned, the former Cedar Point Tavern property and an adjacent lot.
An article in the Nov. 2 Carteret County News-Times reported that Cedar Point officials have been working with Lutheran’s sister to resolve the problems, which included removing abandoned vehicles and debris from the two properties.
“The town has been pushing for the cleanup for more than a year and has issued fines for noncompliance,” the article stated. In the article, David Rief, Cedar Point town manager, said progress has been made.
“I’d say they are about 60 percent finished,” Rief said. “They have done the most tedious work.”
Lutheran’s issues in Swansboro were more complicated.
He had spent months on the repair and remodeling work at the Swannsborough Yacht Club – some of which took place without benefit of a building permit – and at the time of his death was hoping to settle the dispute with the town, complete the work and get the doors to the iconic nightclub and restaurant open.
According to information from Parrish, the Yacht Club was damaged during Hurricane Florence in September 2018.
Then, in May 2019, Lutheran received a building permit to install new roof trusses.
“On Aug. 4, 2020, the existing building permit was revised due to a difference in roof design submitted by Mr. Lutheran,” Parrish states in a letter to Lutheran’s attorney, Mike Lincoln. A stop-work order was issued on Aug. 31, 2020. The two sides have been at odds since then.
In a Tideland News article that ran on Sept. 1, Lutheran said that after the hurricane he made the repairs necessary to get the business open and the Swannsborough Yacht Club was fully operational until March 2020 when Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive orders forced many bars, restaurants and private clubs to shut down or drastically curtail operations.
“COVID came and we were closed,” he said in the article. So, while the business was closed during COVID precautions, he said he started to complete the remodeling.
While the work was underway, Swansboro warned Lutheran about the town’s 50-percent rule, which states, “If the cost to repair the building or structure with minimum standards is 50 percent or less of its then-current value, the ordinance shall require the owner to either repair or demolish and remove the building or structure within 90 days. If the cost to repair the building or structure to bring it into compliance with minimum standards exceeds 50 percent of its then-current value, the ordinance shall require the owner to demolish and remove the building or structure within 90 days.”
In order to resume, Lutheran needed to prove that the work could be accomplished for less than half of the value of the building at the time the repairs were undertaken.
Lutheran claimed the appraisal came in at more than $300,000, which would allow up to $150,000 worth of repairs.
In the Sept. 1 article, Lutheran said, “I’m not even close …”
Requests for comment from Lincoln were unanswered.
Email Jimmy Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.