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Mayoral candidate owes village $60,000

Bob Spitzen Bob Spitzen

If Bob Spitzen pulls off a miraculous upset to become the mayor of Flat Rock, the Village Council would face a thorny question.

The candidate is banned from Village Hall.
Spitzen, 73, has been in a five-year war with the village. The village says — and a judge has officially agreed — that Spitzen added a deck to his house at 5 Robert E. Lee Drive eight years ago without getting either a building permit from the county or a zoning certificate from the village. In the intervening years since the village notified him that the deck was in violation, Spitzen has lost a lawsuit the village brought, received a fine of $60,400, gotten himself banned from Village Hall for pestering clerks and other officials, and even, he says, been thrown in jail for trespassing.
“My chances of winning are not great but who knows,” he says.
Among the planks on his platform are firing the town administrator, paying council members $1,000 a month (historically council members take no pay) and spreading the work around.
“Why would you need an administrator if everybody works 10 hours a week,” he said.
Spitzen moved into the home, which is owned by his son, Joshua, in 2005.
The village first notified him of the zoning violation on Oct. 21, 2010.
“In addition, you were advised by Mrs. Boleman at a number of meetings in the village office, by me at one such meeting, and by members of the council at a council agenda workshop meeting on January 3, 2011, of measures to be taken to correct the violation,” Mayor Bob Staton, who is running for re-election, said in a letter to Spitzen in January 2011. “You have also had discussions of this matter in telephone conversations with at least two council members whom you have called a their homes.”
Staton went on to describe how Spitzen had interrupted work at the village hall.
He stopped by “without appointment or notice, often multiple times in one day,” made “on the spot demands on the office staff for reproductions of documents,” and asked “redundant questions that have already been answered … wasting our time and yours for no apparent useful purpose.”
Staton went on to tell Spitzen that he could visit only by appointment or during official meetings of town boards.
“If you come upon the premises without written permission, you will be trespassing and treated accordingly,” the mayor said. Staton was traveling out of the country and not reachable for comment on the Spitzen case and the election campaign.
Judy Boleman, the town administrator who issued the original violation notice to Spitzen, said the property owner could have easily defused the whole dispute.
“The village has never been into getting the money,” she said. “The village has been into curing the zoning violation. Several months ago, his son, through their attorney, Jay Taylor, said, ‘We will cure the zoning violation and we will pay $12,500 to cover attorney fees.’ The village agreed to that and signed the documents and Joshua and Robert signed but they didn’t do it.”
Even though Spitzen built the deck without a building permit or a certificate of zoning compliance, that would have been an easy problem to fix, she said.
“He was given a long time to do what he needed to do,” she said. “Always without exception, I explain (to homeowners) that they have to have permits from us and the county or face civil penalties.” If a resident has already built an addition or added a deck “they will retroactively apply for a certificate of zoning compliance,” she said. “We have never once applied civil penalties as long as the person complies.”
Spitzen calls the village’s behavior “a farce.”
“Before I even met them, (village attorney) Sharon Alexander had it in for me and the mayor had it in for me,” he said.
After Staton banned him from Village Hall, he dropped in on a meeting of the DAR in the Village Hall, he said.
“I was arrested on a Friday and kept in a lockup for about four days,” he said. “I was arrested without even knowing why I was arrested.”
District Court Judge Mack Brittain signed the final order in the lawsuit over the zoning violation on Aug. 24, 2012, fining Spitzen and his son $60,400 at $100 a day for 604 days “of non-compliance” with the village ordinance.
The village is still trying to collect.
Spitzen’s house in Flat Rock is underwater, with a greater mortgage than its value, Boleman said. Alexander’s latest effort is to seize property Joshua Spitzen owns in Buncombe County to satisfy the civil fine, Boleman said.