To comply with zoning rules, three residents will leave Montford home

To avoid fines, Bernard Carman, a Montford landowner involved in a dispute over city zoning rules that prohibit more than five unrelated tenants from living in his eight-bedroom house, says three tenants are leaving in order to comply with the rules.

Photo by Jonathan Welch

“I have been forced to comply, meaning I had to reduce my occupancy to 5 total,” Carman writes in an e-mail to Xpress.

Carman has shared the three-story house with seven tenants since buying the property 22 years ago. However, after a complaint from a neighbor about an abandoned car, city officials found out that the number of people living in the house exceeded the amount allowed in single-family zoning. City and state rules define a “single-family” unit as no more than five unrelated people. “That means there are 3 less affordable housing opportunities here in Montford, and i am having to increase the rent (to some degree) on the remaining four, all because of arbitrary and draconian legislation at both the city and state levels.”

If he had not complied by reducing the number of tenants in the house, Carman was facing fines of about $100 a day.

While denser housing is ostensibly one of the city’s goals, staff have defended the rules, asserting that unrelated people are less likely to help each other in case of an emergency and that more than five unrelated people creates unacceptable levels of noise for a single-family neighborhood.

— David Forbes, senior news reporter

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79 thoughts on “To comply with zoning rules, three residents will leave Montford home

  1. shannon

    If “more than five unrelated people creates unacceptable levels of noise for a single-family neighborhood”, I am interested to see how many noise complaints have been filed against this home within the last 22 years. Perhaps its time for Asheville to break out of this very dated and discriminatory mindset and start seeing single-family zones as places for people to actually live.

  2. Piffy!

    [b]asserting that unrelated people are less likely to help each other in case of an emergency and that more than five unrelated people creates unacceptable levels of noise for a single-family neighborhood.[/b]

    Rid.Ic.Ulous.

    What if he just called them BnB guests and charged them by the day?

    Seriously, this is so, so so lame.

  3. Piffy!

    …since there are so many houses in Montford that obviously have more than 5 unrelated people, and have for years and years, I have to wonder why Mr. Carmen is being singled out.

    Did Mr. Carmen choose to fight this and make an issue instead of just doing a sleight of hand, as many other Montford households have done in the past? (oh, sure officer, we’ll get these guys moved out tomorrow. thanks for your time) Or is this the beginning of a big crackdown?

  4. Susan Andrew

    I must say, the city’s position on this is hard for lotsa folks to understand–esp. the safety thing. I lived in a big beautiful old house in college with 11 others–twelve bedrooms, four bathrooms, huge kitchen, attractive flower beds. We were good neighbors and created a homey atmosphere with terrific food and plenty of camaraderie. Safety issues in that town (Ann Arbor, MI) were dealt with in an organized fashion–through an ordinance (covering fire extinguishers and the like). The city can find a way to make this work, if it’s serious about affordable housing.

  5. Scotty_Mack

    Those who fix up and take back neighborhoods are always pushed out later by new neighbors who care more about property values and a idyllic suburban myth where no one has to see or hear each other and community is destroyed. Screw that. Why the family bias in the law? I know of a family in Waynesville (we’ll call them the “Smiths”) made up of fifteen people who are incredibly loud, destructive, and quite, umm, random in their collective behavior. It would be legal for them to live there just because they all have similar chromosomes? I’m tempted to buy this house and turn it over to the “Smiths” just to teach Montford and the city a lesson. Plus, any family with that many kids could use a break…

  6. “The city can find a way to make this work, if it’s serious about affordable housing.”

    Pretty clear that City’s interested in “affordable” housing, ONLY if they have a hand in it.

  7. Betty Cloer Wallace

    The city’s stance on this matter is unconscionable, and what happened to these people is simply wrong, wrong, wrong.

    Twenty-two years of occupancy ought to be worthy of some kind of “grandfathering.”

  8. Barry Summers

    Really sad and unfair. One wonders how “safe” the bed & breakfast right next door is, with all those unrelated people staying there…

    The only winner in this is the ‘neighbor’ (I use the word loosely) who just got three people tossed out of their home and drove the rent up for the rest.

  9. JonathanBarnard

    Clearly, this flies in the face of the city’s support for affordable housing and sustainability.

    Does anyone know if city Council plans on reviewing the policies that led to this outcome?
    How can they not?

  10. Curious

    “Does anyone know if city Council plans on reviewing the policies that led to this outcome?
    How can they not?”

    Isn’t Cecil Bothwell looking into this?

  11. It’s quite clear Mr. Barnard…the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. And when this is brought to their attention, we’re merely glared at and labeled “trouble makers.” I know this from my own first hand experience with Council. Our leadership in this town is sadly inept at best…at worst corrupt.

  12. shadmarsh

    I’m glad to see yall so worked up over this. Can’t imagine how angry you get over actual homeless people.

  13. Frosty, I don’t know about the other commenters, but I am good friends with one of the folks affected. So naturally, when they get medi coverage, i’m going to show my support.

    Besides it’s our civic responsibility to hold public officials feet to the fire, when they show gross incompetence.

  14. shadmarsh

    That’s right, council should spend more time changing laws that A) they might not have the authority to change and B)effect my/their friends. Isn’t that what we (the 12% of us that voted) elected them to do?

  15. I’m not saying they should change their laws for my friend…I’m saying there is a disconnect between the recent big push for building affordable housing projects and this situation where affordable housing is being attacked by the powers that be. Something’s just wrong here.

    Try to stay on topic instead of nit-picking.

  16. shadmarsh

    Off topic? Whatevs.
    You are the one throwing around phrases like “gross incompetence” yet do you even know if this is a local or state thing? Do you even realize how little relative power City Council has? It’s easy to bitch about this ex post facto, but are you willing to educate yourself on such ordinances and work to change them? Or are we just using this as an opportunity to take shots at the city?

  17. Piffy!

    [b]I’m glad to see yall so worked up over this. Can’t imagine how angry you get over actual homeless people. [/b]

    Homeless? It appears to me this is about highlighting the city’s hypocrisy about ‘high density housing’, as well as the completely arbitrary way in which this archaic law is being selectively enforced. We all know homes in Asheville that don’t comply to this in any way. This was likely some rich snob who just moved in trying to ‘clean the place up.’. I lived in a home in Montford for years where we had one problem lady who called the cops every week for petty or imagined infractions. This is merely a continuation of that.

    I still maintain that the homeowner should have just agreed and then ignored. A far easier approach than making a stand against a beuracracy you likely can’t beat.

  18. MMmm…ok…so explain this to me like I’m a three year old. Exactly how DOES putting three people out of their home at Christmas time fit in with the 10 year plan to end homelessness?

    City Council — you rock! NOT!!!

  19. shadmarsh

    I still maintain that the homeowner should have just agreed and then ignored. A far easier approach than making a stand against a beuracracy you likely can’t beat.

    That would have been the smart thing…

  20. Ezekiel

    “after a complaint from a neighbor about an abandoned car, city officials found out that the number of people living in the house exceeded the amount allowed in single-family zoning.”

    I wonder if perhaps the real issue is parking space?

  21. “I wonder if perhaps the real issue is parking space?”

    This renovated Montford home has 100% off-street parking on a pervious surface for all occupants.
    ……………………

  22. Should the housing regulation that is being singularly enforced in Bernard Carman’s case be uniformly enforced in all of Asheville?
    ………………..

  23. shadmarsh

    Should the housing regulation that is being singularly enforced in Bernard Carman’s case be uniformly enforced in all of Asheville?
    Yes. It may be a stupid regulation, but selective enforcement is even worse.

  24. “Yes. It may be a stupid regulation, but selective enforcement is even worse.”

    When it comes to housing code enforcement, the City of Asheville only responds to specific complaints; as it did in this case.

    How would non-conformance with housing regulation be uniformly enforced in all of Asheville under these conditions?
    …………………


  25. “I still maintain that the homeowner should have just agreed and then ignored. A far easier approach than making a stand against a beuracracy you likely can’t beat.

    That would have been the smart thing… “

    Much easier said than done. Don’t you think the individual who did the complaining is going to be keeping really close tabs?

    I had a backyard flock of little bantum chickens…and got reported. The little flock was safely housed and the coop kept very clean. But still, I seriously doubt the a$$-hole (there’s always one in every neighborhood) who reported me, would have kept quiet had I not found a home for my chicks in the country.

  26. Killarue

    first, I do sympathize with the owner and tenants, especially during these difficult times, and the season. But, I wonder if ignorance of the ordinaces by the owner did not contribute to this dilemma. Also, does anyone know the origin of this particular ordinance and why it was created. If the reason that brought it about is no longer relevant, than the owner and supporters should petition City Council to change it. However, laws and ordinances are not randomly created and it is easy to react emotionally before understanding the full reason.

  27. GoodGuy

    Who says its affordable? What is he charging? Who knows who put in the complaint- some of you have vivid imaginations

  28. The Trolls Troll

    @Frostillicus: Why do you hate America? Meanwhile, why aren’t the message board-savvy city councilors commenting on this?

  29. UnaffiliatedVoter

    I have yet to hear of City Council addressing this directly, nor anything about the street trash and litter problem that is so rampant in this ‘environmental supremacy zone’…

  30. Barry Summers

    When it comes to housing code enforcement, the City of Asheville only responds to specific complaints; as it did in this case.

    How would non-conformance with housing regulation be uniformly enforced in all of Asheville under these conditions?

    …………………

    OK, I’ll take a stab at it – publicly suggest ratting out each other for spite?

    Oh, look. Someone else already thought of that…

    Does this residence conform to zoning ordinances for rental property?
    ……………………..

    I’m just looking at this from the City of Asheville’s point of view. All rental property in the city must comform to state and municipal regulatory code. If no one there knows the answer to my question, I will look into it myself. Thanks.
    …………………

    http://www.mountainx.com/news/2010/apd_investigating_pre-thanksgiving_home_invasion_in_montford

  31. “ratting out each other”

    Are you saying that the only way to ensure that violations of housing code are uniformly enforced is if someone calls in a complaint on every home in Asheville?
    ……………………

  32. Barry Summers

    I’m saying that being abrasive and confrontational online is one thing, but you are suggesting actually ruining innocent people’s lives, just to prove some twisted point. I would urge you to think carefully about doing this.

  33. “However, laws and ordinances are not randomly created and it is easy to react emotionally before understanding the full reason.”

    Maybe there are some emotionally motivated responses here…mine however is the disconnected craziness of City officials who on one hand enforce building “affordable housing” in neighborhoods (Larchmont) and others…yet yet enforce draconian rules on Mr. Carman for providing affordable housing to eight tenants in a home that can well accomodate eight tenants.

  34. Barry Summers

    What point is that?

    That Gotham is a rotten town full of rotten people, and you’re just going to give back as bad as you’re received? That there’s no such thing as “innocent” people, since they sat by and watched those three people get thrown out of the Carman house, they deserve to get thrown out in the street too?

    Have you got someone to design you a villain’s outfit yet? You have to have a ‘persona’. How about that jerk from Ghostbusters, the guy from the EPA – he has to keep saying “My name is Peck” whenever Bill Murray calls him “Pecker”. That could be your catchphrase.

    You’re right – too obscure…

  35. Barry Summers

    Yeah, I agree. Soccer players should all be allowed to carry yellow flags to throw at will, when the refs don’t act fast enough…

  36. Barry Summers

    What’s “uncivil” is what you suggested you were planning to do over on the other thread – investigating to see whether this household of people who got robbed at gunpoint has ‘too many’ residents, and therefore should be turned in to the City.

    That’s not funny even as a mean, snarky joke to illustrate some City government dysfunction. You’re playing with people’s lives.

  37. How would non-conformance with housing regulation be uniformly enforced in all of Asheville given that the City of Asheville only responds to specific complaints?
    ………………

  38. The only way to find out if the city of Asheville actually does uniform enforcement of this ordinance is to report a large number of violators and pay attention to which ones actually get fined, or are forced to comply…and which ones walk away unscathed, then after a period of time…make a report available on who got reported (with supporting docs, pics, audio, etc) and the outcome. Then we would see if there actually was uniform enforcement.

    Someone must be willing to throw the sabot into the machine, and this is as good a way as any…and sometimes the system must be broken in order to get it fixed.

    @Tim: You should know better than to try to play against the House Favorites. You cannot win because the rules do not apply to them. Just continue to be the straight man and avoid personal attacks and the thinking people will be able to see the pattern of their attacks and vitriol for themselves…

  39. Barry Summers

    The only way to find out if the city of Asheville actually does uniform enforcement of this ordinance is to report a large number of violators…

    Someone must be willing to throw the sabot into the machine, and this is as good a way as any…

    Speaking of sabots, I would not want to be in your shoes when word gets around that Pig & Peck are planning to get people thrown out of their homes in the dead of a wintery recession, just to prove a point.

    The vats you two gestated in must be very proud.

  40. Barry Summers

    thinly veiled threats of violence do not concern me

    Nice try, Porkins. Pointing out that there will likely be consequences for you & your wingman attacking random innocent people does not constitute a threat of violence – it’s just common sense.

    I can take care of myself.

    I think the phrase you’re looking for is, “I can hold it.”:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oO7UMEYiUeg

  41. Curious

    Several commentators have asked for responses from City Council members. Why haven’t we heard from Gordon Smith and Cecil Bothwell?

  42. shadmarsh

    Several commentators have asked for responses from City Council members. Why haven’t we heard from Gordon Smith and Cecil Bothwell?

    Gordon Smith has, on several occasions in several places. Whether you realize it or not, City Council does not have the power to change state laws.

  43. Curious

    I’d be grateful to Frostillicus for a link to Gordon Smith’s comments. Also, I’m not clear if it’s a fire code violation or a zoning code violation that’s at issue (or both) for Mr. Carman. What changes would he have to make (other than kicking out three of his tenants) to meet code? Cost of those changes? Perhaps this has been covered in previous news stories but would appreciate a link or a recap. (I’m not interested in the “selective enforcement” issue that seems to be the focus of others, just the matter of how/if Mr. Carman can continue to provide affordable housing.)

  44. Barry Summers

    Whether you realize it or not, City Council does not have the power to change state laws.

    And I know that this is the case with most governmental agencies, especially those with enforcement responsibilities: frivolous complaints can be met with criminal charges. Just FYI, Porkins & Peck…

  45. “frivolous complaints can be met with criminal charges.”

    Who is making frivolous complaints?

    What would they be charged with?

    Can someone make an anonymous complaint?
    …………………

  46. Barry Summers

    Can someone make an anonymous complaint?
    …………………

    I don’t know. What am I, your co-conspirator? If you want to become Asheville’s “I called in a complaint to the government that got you thrown out of your house” guy, you’re on your own. Oh, sorry – I forgot. You have your porcine sidekick. Good luck with all that. And forget about being ‘anonymous’ anyway – the cat is out of the bag. You’ve publicly announced your intentions.

    Hey, I came up with a new catchphrase for your supervillainhood:

    “Spite Makes Right”

  47. You’ve publicly announced your intentions.”

    What intentions are you referring to?

    Where have I publicly announced any intentions?

    …………………

  48. [MODERATOR NOTE: This is where this thread continued to be uncivil.]

    “Every time you open your smarmy little yapper?”

    Could you elaborate?
    …………………….

  49. JonathanBarnard

    Frosty wrote: “Gordon Smith has, on several occasions in several places. Whether you realize it or not, City Council does not have the power to change state laws.”

    Frosty, did you hear these in person or read them on line? If the latter, could you please provide links? Thanks in advance.

  50. On Oct 13, 2010, at 10:22 AM, Gordon Smith wrote:

    Bernard,

    You’ll find me in agreement on the illogical and arbitrary nature of this standard. I’m not sure I can do anything about it though if it’s a state level issue. You ought to be able to live there.

    G
    ……………..

  51. Barry Summers

    What changes would he have to make (other than kicking out three of his tenants) to meet code? Cost of those changes? Perhaps this has been covered in previous news stories but would appreciate a link or a recap.

    Good comprehensive piece written by Mr. Carman himself before the enforcement hammer came down:

    http://www.mountainx.com/blogwire/2010/asheville_affordable_housing_threatened

    Second most recent article:

    http://www.mountainx.com/news/2010/111710sustainable-for-whom

    I seem to remember somewhere in there he says that the major expense would be installing a sprinkler system throughout the whole house.

  52. JonathanBarnard

    Thanks, Tim.

    The question I would now have for the city is:

    What about defining large group houses like Bernard’s as boarding houses; and then amending zoning regulations to allow boarding houses in all neighborhoods in the city (including single-family residential ones) and allow them to hold at least as many persons as bedrooms?

    Or must all boarding houses have sprinkler systems under state law?

    My idea may not work, but I think there might be some other way for the city to work around the state law, and I think Council should ask staff to look for options on how to do exactly that.

  53. JonathanBarnard

    And thanks Barry for those links. I hadn’t seen your post before I posted. I actually had commented on both those threads before, but I had forgotten Bernard’s proposal to redefine boarding house (so his wouldn’t be included as one).

    Again, I wonder if it wouldn’t make more sense to keep his house defined as a boarding house and rewrite what’s allowed in R-8 zoning.

    I should note that I’m not such a great fan of single-family zoning in the first place. For instance, think the city should have allowed small apartment building in areas currently zoned as “single family residential” within a quarter mile of buslines (as had originally been proposed for the recently adopted sustainability incentives).

  54. Barry Summers

    Yeah, it seems like the traditional ‘boarding house’ designation was meant to address transient housing situations, almost like SROs or youth hostels, and it’s now being used against permanent roommate-type dwellings. It’s an outdated and punitive designation, but the City staff has to enforce state law, unfortunately.

    Mr. Carman had some good suggestions for ways the City could address this. The question is, will they? I suspect this arrangement is favored by realtors, developers, homeowners associations, etc., everyone who believes that neighboring property values are affected by this type of housing, and who also believe that this view should dictate policy.

  55. JonathanBarnard

    In that first link, Bernard talked about the option given him of bringing the home into “commercial compliance” (which would entail significant costs). Is “commercial compliance” required of boarding houses under state law?

  56. “Or must all boarding houses have sprinkler systems under state law?”

    If the Montford home was designated as a boarding house and the city allowed boarding houses in RS-8 zoned areas, the house would still have to meet state housing code and have a sprinkler system installed. The cost of installing sprinklers throughout the house would cost in the range of $10,000.

  57. JonathanBarnard

    Thanks, Tim.

    OK, now I’m finally clear on the exact nature of the legal problem. (Perhaps I’m a little slow on the uptake.)

    If Tim is right, then there may be nothing the city can do. I still think, however, that Council should ask staff to look for all possible options.

  58. “So a boarding house needs to have sprinklers, but a large family does not?”

    As of 2006, NC building code mandates that a single-family home housing more than five unrelated occupants must conform to commercial code that requires sprinkler systems be installed.
    …………….

  59. “The cost of installing sprinklers throughout the house would cost in the range of $10,000.”

    CORRECTION: The sprinkler system required would cost more in the range of $20,000 to $30,000.
    ……………….

  60. R.Bernier

    Smart Growth – depends on who is saying.
    Anything goes, Asheville.

    Except when they pull out North Carolina fire codes.

    Property rights?
    ummmmmmmm

    RB

  61. cwaster

    Complaint driven enforcement= selective enforcement.

    Causing people to lose their place to live right before Christmas sucks. Way to go, City of Asheville!

  62. ryan

    THERE ARE OTHER HOUSES IN THE MONTFORD AREA WHERE THIS SAME THING IS GOING ON. THIS IS DRACONIAN LEGISLATION THAT HAS BEEN UN-ENFORCED FOR YEARS. IT SEEMS THAT THE ASHEVILLE CITY OFFICIALS FIND IT OK TO TREAT MR. CARMEN WORSE THAN OTHER PROPERTY OWNERS IN THE AREA. CITY OFFICIALS SHOULD TREAT MR. CARMEN THE SAME AS THE OTHER PROPERTY OWNERS, AND LOOK THE OTHER WAY.

  63. cwaster

    Well obviously someone with pricey property bitched to the city and now they “have to enforce the rules.” What a joke.

  64. DB

    Get back at the naighbors by turning the house into a group home for drug addicts and other offenders, cram two to a bed room (16 people total) and be federally protected by the fair housing act

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