QUEENSBURY — Is it a tiny house, or a ‘custom travel trailer?’
The town of Queensbury believes the small structure that has been sitting on property off Brayton Road, on the east shore of Lake George, is a “tiny house” that was put on the property without the proper town permits. That led to the town Building & Codes Office filing a series of code violation complaints against the owners.
But the owners, and neighbors who allowed the structure to be placed on their property amid town code enforcement actions, responded with a lawsuit in recent weeks that claims the town has overstepped its bounds.
That lawsuit came after town officials sought court intervention to have the 1.5-story, wheeled building removed, an effort that led to a ruling Tuesday from state Supreme Court Justice Robert Muller finding that the owners did violate town code, and directing them to “dismantle” or remove the building from the town within 45 days.
The owners’ lawsuit claims the town did not have jurisdiction and its actions are “without rational basis,” as the building is on wheels and is not connected to septic, water or electric utilities. Town officials, though, claimed it had a water source and was hooked into a septic system at one point.
“The director appears to be looking for a conflict by thwarting all of the Coughtrys’ plans to come into compliance with town code,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit was filed by the owners of the property where the trailer was initially kept — Joann Coughtry, Timothy Coughtry and Kimberly Mariani — and the neighbors who allowed it to be put on their property when the town Code Enforcement Office demanded it be moved — David Dufresne and Evelyn Dufresne. (Muller’s ruling Tuesday was that the Dufresnes did not violate town code by allowing the trailer to be moved to their property and stored there, although it will still have to be removed under his ruling that it be moved out of Queensbury.)
The Coughtrys claim the structure was built to replace a 42-foot travel trailer that had been on the Coughtry property for years, which had been removed before the new “custom” recreational vehicle was built.
But David Hatin, the town’s director of buildings and codes, in court records called it an “illegal structure on a boat trailer,” and warned that fines of up to $950 a day could be imposed if it was not removed from the property.
The plaintiffs also asked that the town Zoning Board of Appeals review the issue, but a lawyer for the town said that review was not applicable.
After the Building & Codes Office demanded the building be moved, the Coughtrys had it placed on the neighboring Brayton Road property owned by the Dufresnes, according to court records.
Town Supervisor John Strough said the owners built a structure without any town approvals and failed to meet deadlines for removal that began May 1, 2017. The town got an injunction last year that barred its use until a legal determination could be made.
“It appears the owners are trying to skirt the Town Code by building the structure on a trailer,” Strough said.
Between the town court action and the lawsuit against the town, Queensbury taxpayers have paid $26,144 for legal services, Strough said. And with the pending lawsuit filed by the property owners, those fees will go up, Strough added.
Lawyer John Aspland, who along with lawyer Michael Crowe is defending the town, said the town “is simply trying to enforce New York State Uniform Building Code, which it has been charged with doing by the State Legislature.”