Loudon County filed a lawsuit in Loudon County Chancery Court against a Lenoir City man after nearly seven years of complaints from neighbors regarding a property line violation.
Mark Matlock, who resides on Beals Chapel Road and serves as managing member of Beals Chapel Property, LLC, is being sued after building a structure that is in violation of the county’s building codes and zoning resolution.
Jim Jenkins, county codes enforcement director, is spearheading the lawsuit on behalf of the county. The complaint was filed Aug. 26.
Bob Bowman, county attorney, said Matlock was served papers Aug. 31 and an “answer is due 30 days after that date, absent an agreement for more time.” Jenkins declined comment.
“On Sept. 10, 2018, Mr. Jenkins received a complaint that there is an accessory building constructed too close to the side property line on the subject property,” according to the complaint. “Mr. Jenkins made a site visit to verify the complaint. During his inspection, he noted that there is a structure, which had been allowed to be constructed at an earlier date without a roof covering, located within the 5-foot setback. Mr. Jenkins found that this same structure now has a roof covering added to it.”
Jenkins sent a notice letter to BCP on Sept. 19, 2018, informing Matlock that the building did not meet the minimum required setbacks and needed to be moved.
According to the complaint, Matlock began constructing a pool house in 2009 and complaints from neighbors were initiated in 2013. Matlock also constructed a privacy wall.
“My understanding is this all started before I became a county commissioner back in 2018 and it was that Mr. Matlock wanted to build a privacy wall to block the neighbors’ view of his pool,” Adam Waller, county commissioner, said. “The wall has evolved, and I believe it now has a kitchen, a bathroom, a television and a fireplace. It’s still in his mind a privacy wall and the Loudon County Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals allows him to have a wall. Once you put a roof over it, it becomes a structure, which a structure requires a 5-foot step back. His is exactly on the property line for whatever reason.”
Matlock appeared before the Loudon County Board of Zoning Appeals on Nov. 13, 2018, and the board upheld the decision that the structure with a roof covering was “in violation of the zoning regulations and must be brought into compliance.”
Matlock pledged to remove the structure immediately following the meeting but never took action, Waller said.
“Matlock originally built a privacy wall on his property line, which is legal,” Van Shaver, county commissioner, said. “However, sometime later he used the wall as a part of a large, enclosed pool house with a complete roof. The pool house includes plumbing and electrical. Any structure with a roof must meet the county lot line setback requirements for an accessory structure, which would include a pool house.”
According to the lawsuit, Matlock could be fined $5-$50 per day for the continued violation, which means he could be liable for at least $32,800.
“Just last month, the county attorney filed a lawsuit against Mr. Matlock to force him to either move the building or take the roof off and it only be a privacy wall like he initially said it was,” Shaver said. “It’s $5 to $50 a day we’re allowed to assess the fining of someone that’s in violation. As a county commissioner, I would say absolutely he should be forced through the lawsuit to have to pay the fine. We have zoning regulations and county laws that provide for county zoning regulations.”
Commissioners hope the lawsuit will set a precedent against future violations.
“It boils down to holding people accountable to the county’s zoning regulations, and we have to enforce them,” Waller said. “In this instance, this is not the case. It’s unfortunate, but we’ve had to use actions necessary to enforce our zoning regulations.”
“If we’re not going to enforce it on one, then we don’t enforce it on anybody,” Shaver added. “If we’re going to enforce it, we’re going to enforce it on everybody, equally and fairly, across the slate. Everybody has to abide by the same regulations. Mr. Matlock is not a special case. It is unfortunate taxpayers would have to foot the bill to force a builder/developer who should know the county regulations to comply with those regulations. I guess some folks just feel they’re above the law.”
Matlock could not be reached for comment by News-Herald presstime.