American Legion post is told it can’t rent out its facilities

By Caitlin Owens cowens@newsobserver.comJuly 29, 2013 

— Members of an American Legion post want to pursue ways to continue renting out its facilities, which it has ceased doing since it was found in violation of a zoning ordinance last year.

Post One, located on Lee Road, stopped renting out the facility after city zoning administrator Walt Fulcher found the post to be in noncompliance with its residential zoning. The events held there were not associated with the American Legion, Fulcher said.

“They were opening it up to rent to the general public for anything and everything,” he said. “They were opening it up as a commercial space.”

American Legion members said they received donations for the use, which the post depended on to fund its activities.

“If we can’t carry on the way we’ve been, I don’t know where we’ll get the income,” said Gerald Padden, the post adjutant.

The Law and Public Safety committee of the City Council revisited the issue Tuesday, discussing options for future action with American Legion members. One option is for the legion to take the matter to the city Board of Adjustment to challenge the interpretation of the zoning inspector. Another option is to submit a rezoning case for the facility. A third option is for City Council staff to initiate a change of the existing ordinance, which would allow the post to continue operating as it has in the past.

“None of them is entirely easy or free,” Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said.

Fulcher said he responded to a noise complaint by neighbors and discovered 12 violations – or calls to 911 – regarding the post in the year preceding his inspection. He discovered the ordinance violations while investigating the noise complaint.

“They would get pretty loud and wild sometimes,” said Jeffrey Mullen, who lives near the post. He said he tried to be a “good neighbor” by talking to them, but when this failed, he reported the problem.

Mullen said renters would play loud music until 2 or 3 a.m. He added that sometimes his windows shook from the noise while he watched the news. Other neighbors complained about the parties as well, he said.

Since the post has stopped renting out its facilities, the noise has decreased, Mullen said, although the music has started to come back recently.

Fulcher said the post can “absolutely” host events associated with the American Legion.

“From a zoning standpoint, as long as the events and fundraising is associated with the group, then they can have those types of activity,” he said.

Owens: 919-829-4567

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