Judge dismisses suit in property case

Published 9:40 am Wednesday, September 24, 2014

SUFFOLK—On Tuesday, Judge Carl Eason Jr. in Suffolk Circuit Court granted Isle of Wight County’s request to dismiss a suit by an Ivor man concerned that his property rights were being infringed on by a County ordinance.

But, Eason added that the County had to formally notify Joseph Ferguson Jr. that he had another opportunity to appeal before the matter could possibly come back to court.

At issue is a situation that dates back to the summer of 2011. Ferguson had given a friend permission to stay in a camper on his 86 acres, which is on the 12000 block of Dews Plantation Road. This land was used from time to time for hunting, and there were already hookups for electricity, sewer and water, which enabled the friend to stay out of the home and not disrupt the family.

In early October that year, Ferguson received a letter from the county’s codes enforcement officer that in response to an anonymous complaint, Ferguson was in violation of ordinances because the trailer didn’t have a current inspection, registration and vehicle stickers, and that RVs shouldn’t be used as living quarters.

He did comply with the matter and disconnected the RV from the utilities. But Ferguson was not content to let it stop there. Instead, he brought up the matter with the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. The issue went back and forth, but not to his satisfaction, hence the lawsuit that was filed earlier in 2014.

Representing Ferguson is Fred Taylor of Bush and Taylor.

Eason asked Taylor if he thought the ordinance was “arbitrary and capricious toward Ferguson,” and the attorney said yes. Further, Ferguson’s seeking not so much variance in the rule, “but affirmation of his rights by this court.”

IOW County Attorney Mark Popovitch was available to represent the County, and explained the other side of the matter.

During questioning, it was learned that Ferguson was not appropriately notified that his 30-day window of appeal still exists.

“I don’t think there’s an exhaustion yet of Mr. Ferguson’s right to pursue his remedies,” Eason said, who then granted the dismissal requested by the County.

“We’re disappointed at the outcome,” Taylor said afterward. “I will discuss his [Ferguson’s] options. I don’t think this is going away.”

Popovitch and Planning and Zoning Director Beverly Walkup later said that the County doesn’t want to be adversarial when there are such conflicts with county residents, and instead will first ask them if they can work with officials to resolve conflicts. If there’s not cooperation then a second notice can serve as code enforcement.

“We went above and beyond with Mr. Ferguson,” they agreed.