Driveway Grandfathered In?

(WSVN) - For many people, your house has been the same for years … so how would you feel if you had a gravel driveway for decades and the city said, time for you to pave it. One man said, “No, I am grandfathered in.” The city said, “No you aren’t,” and that’s when the call went out to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

As Tom Corette walks in this yard, it brings back memories of his childhood.

Tom Corette, fighting City Hall: “My father came here for training for World War II, and after the war, he came back and decided to settle in Miami.”

Tom grew up in this house in North Miami Beach that his father bought in 1955.

Tom Corette: “This was the first house he ever bought, and we have been here ever since.”

In 1962, Tom’s parents did a little upgrade, pulling permits to convert the open carport into a bedroom and pouring a small driveway for their fancy new car.

Tom Corette: “It looks exactly like it does right now. I have photographs of it.”

Tom’s parents have passed away but the nice neat house looks the same, until Tom was told by North Miami Beach, “It’s time for things to change.”

Tom Corette: “Excavate this ground and put in a concrete driveway that goes from the road to the sidewalk.”

The city was enforcing an ordinance passed in 2013 that required a paved driveway — a decision Tom did not like.

Tom Corette: “This has always been gravel. This is how it’s always been.”

Patrick Fraser: “Since 1955?”

Tom Corette: “Since 1955.”

Tom was also told the city wanted him to remove this concrete area poured by his father in 1962 and replace it with landscaping.

Tom Corette: “And he did this with his own hands and with his friends.”

That’s when Tom said “enough,” and he let city officials know of his decision.

Tom Corette: “You go back and you tell your boss that I am not putting that driveway in.

Patrick Fraser: “So you fought the city?”

Tom Corette: “I fought the city.”

Patrick Fraser: “How’s that going?”

Tom Corette: “Well, it’s not going good.”

The city started fining Tom. It’s now up to $3,450.

And what’s interesting … if you drive down his street, he has 18 neighbors. Thirteen also have gravel driveways. Tom says as far as he knows, none of them are being fined like he is.

Tom Corette: “Patrick, I tried so hard to go and reasonably talk to these people.”

Tom argued that he should be grandfathered in, that the driveway hasn’t changed since 1962.

Tom Corette: “And what I was told was cities are allowed to make changes and upgrades. This isn’t fair.”

Well Tom doesn’t think it’s fair, but Howard, can you force a homeowner to change something that has legally been this way for decades?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Yes, a city can, but not in this case. While the new ordinance requires paved driveways, it doesn’t say it requires existing gravel driveways to be paved. Plus, another ordinance on the books says no changes can be made that put an undue hardship on a homeowner. Put the two together, it’s clearly confusing, meaning you cannot force these homeowners to change their driveways at this time.”

We spoke to North Miami Beach officials. It could not have turned out any better for Tom.

The city is dropping the violation and going to rewrite the code in the next few months to make the requirements more clear.

One final thing — that $3,450 fine Tom was facing has been reduced to $0.

Tom Corette: “The liens have been removed, the house is again free and clear.”

Tom fought City hall and won.

Tom Corette: “Truth, justice and the American way prevailed. Without your help, a little help from you, my friends, it would have never happened.”

That’s the second time I have dealt with North Miami Beach on a issue like this. Give them credit, both times they were able to make the homeowner happy.

And if you are battling a government agency, the key is knowing what’s in the local ordinances to see if you are being treated fairly. There is a website called Municode that has almost every city and counties ordinances.

Someone parked a problem with you? Ready to drive it away? Contact us. We have the gravel in our gut to work it out of you. Isn’t the gravel in your gut from an old Johnny Cash song? With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser 7News.

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Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
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