The Right of Way, Easement and the B&B application
2007 site plan
In late 2009, when most of the structural works completed, Lee applied for a special use permit to use the restored spare bedrooms for a bed and breakfast establishment in line with the city charter’s guidelines for restoring historic homes. However, the move triggered 10 years of legal battles. The house is situated on a slope, it used a 300-foot driveway to reach the main road, which was part of the original driveway built for Wodenethe Estate in 1841. In 1970, a subdivision plan separated the remaining southern Gate House from Chrystie House; the separated lot included the original Wodenethe driveway. The subdivision granted Chrystie House the right of way, easement for ingress and egress through the driveway.
During the hearing for Lee’s special permit application, the lawyer representing the owner of the Gatehouse property made the claim that the deeded right of way and easement had expired. Without any proper investigation the planning board and the city government promptly labeled the claim a “legitimate land dispute,” saying it should be “adjudicated” in the New York Supreme Court and allowed the erected barricades that inconvenienced drivers and pedestrians.
The city council resolution, the alternative back driveway and the lawsuit
2011 Plot Plan
The city council adopted the Planning Board’s recommendation, granted the permit but required Lee to use the land of the other one-acre lot he owned to create a back entrance and build an alternative driveway. The approved driveway on the revised site plan of combined lots was recorded in 2011. This political move altered the landscaping of the house and historic site plan, created the legal ground for the Gatehouse property owner to escalate her actions and eventually file a suit in the New York Supreme Court. The complains mainly targeted on the site plan recorded 2011, stating that by adding one more lot to the historic lot on the site plan, violated the rights granted by original deed.
In 2015, the judge issued a summary decision during the legal proceedings, she stated that the historic driveway is to be used unconditionally by the Chrystie House property owner but the revised site plan had presented a problem, she ordered Lee to “reconfigure the land use” and amend the site plan.
The city official and council refused to discuss the merits of the court order, compelling Lee to reach a settlement with his neighbor by retaining land use attorneys who are well-regarded by Beacon city officials.
The elimination of the historical driveway, the lot line change and a new front driveway
2018 Site Plan
A resolution was reached in 2018 that required a lot line change between the two properties and eliminated the historic entrance and driveway of Chrystie House. The new plan voided the right of way/easement and established a new driveway by using some 5,000 square feet land the Gatehouse property gave up along the revised property line.
Up to that moment, the “saga of three driveway” as termed by a senior New York State Historic Preservation Department officer, had cost Lee more than 650 thousand dollars in legal and construction fees, as well as the business loss and untold time and energy. Lee
obtained the work permit and started the construction in early 2020, the work had been stopped by COVID-19 but Lee managed to get most of the excavation done before the winter. In the spring of 2021, the work of the 250 feet long stone retaining wall started, it was finished in September.