When I got the message that “Mayor Stoney is giving us 30 days to vacate our house on N Street”, my first thought was, “dammit Levar, really?”
It ain’t quite that, but it’s a good one.
You probably know Randyl Walter and Leslie Basinger’s house if you’ve been on Chimborazo over the last 5 years, it’s unique to say the least – big, white, maybe sort of shaped like a boat. Get closer and you might hear the chickens, or see one of the peahens and the beehives, or notice the security cameras at the corners of the house.
The house is equally unique on the inside. The main room is wide open, with a steel beam across the peak. All of the doors are on slides, and the stairs up from the basement and up to the next floor are wide slatted and a little higher than usual. There are baby chickens in a little warm hutch.
Aesthetics aside, the space was designed to be stroller and power chair friendly Leslie, who has multiple sclerosis and has difficulty walking.
Randyl built this house in 2012 — or more accurately, has been building this house since 2010 and maybe isn’t quite finished yet. This has put him in a pickle with the city.
The Randyl vs City of Richmond conflict flared up 3 weeks ago or so, when Randyl says a building inspector from the city came out to check out a new shed that he had recently built. At question is whether or not a building permit was necessary, and whether the shed is a shed or maybe part of the house.
Randyl recounts bluntly that he did not like having the inspector come onto his property without permission, that he told the man that, and that encounter did not go amicably. A stop work order was issued.
A week after kicking the inspector out of his yard, Randyl says that Code Enforcement Inspector David Alley called, to discuss the fact that there is no Certificate of Occupancy for the house, and never has been.
This is retribution for kicking the inspector off of his property, according to Randyl.
“I don’t have to have anybody on my property that I don’t want,” says Randyl. ‘You don’t just come on my property and I find you in my garage. […] Now I am being completely harassed.”
Randyl concedes that the house has never passed a final electrical or building inspection, has no active permits, and that there is no CO, but says that there was an agreement with city back in 2015 that has gone awry.
Let’s step back a few years… During the initial construction of the house, the original process of inspections was derailed, says Randyl, when an incompetent inspector caused them months of delay with bad advice. The inspector later asked for a bribe and was fired, says Randyl. During all of this, the original work permits expired.
Randyl and Leslie brought a lawsuit against the city (here, I think — JM). The lawsuit was dropped, Randyl says, when they reached a verbal agreement that their permits would be extended.
Following this, the house passed the mechanical and plumbing inspections. Randyl says he called for electrical and building inspections at the time, but city responded that he did not have active permits — counter to the oral agreement, says Randyl.
The electrical and building inspections never happened, and so there was never a Certificate of Occupancy. This is where everything had left off, until a few weeks ago.
After the shed thing put the house back on the on city’s radar, Alley and an electrical inspector came by to check out the house. Alley left a list of violations — while the electrical inspector has yet to provide his list, Randyl says. He says that the violations that the electrical inspector described while he was there are easily fixed, saying that the house is not unsafe, but that he has no idea of what the actual list of violations may be.
Regardless, the couple has been told that they have 30 days to fix the violations or they will be evicted from the property.
The main sticking point for Randyl and Leslie are the work permits. Randyl is adamant that they should not have to pay to get new permits, while the paperwork from the city states that they will need active permits before they can get the inspections necessary to legally occupy the property.
“We have no place to go. We’re not going anywhere, ” Randyl says when asked what they’re going to do. “The SWAT team is going to have to come drag me out with tear gas.”
“I just need the city to work with me on this,” he reflects.
TOP PHOTO via Google July 2015