Owner of disputed event venues seeks contempt sanctions against Norwich official
Norwich — A dispute over the operation of event venues the city claims are illegal escalated again this month after officials shut down the raising of a large tent at 138 Mediterranean Lane, forcing a planned wedding to be moved to another site.
Huey “Natalie” Min Lee, who is representing herself in a lawsuit seeking an injunction to stop her from renting three properties for events, filed a motion Friday requesting contempt sanctions against city Zoning Enforcement Officer Richard Shuck.
Lee argued the city has no authority to stop events while the civil suit is pending in New London Superior Court. Lee has filed a motion to dismiss the case.
On April 8, Shuck stopped a rental company from erecting a 1,350-square-foot tent without permits at 138 Mediterranean Lane. On April 13, he sent Lee a certified letter issuing a “Notice of Violation and Order to Abate.” The letter cited a state building code requiring that construction documents be submitted to the city building official prior to start of construction.
In her contempt motion, Lee wrote that the guests had rented the property through Vrbo, an online vacation rental site, and “Shuck’s malicious action ruined the guests’ wedding planned for more than one year.” Lee wrote that she issued a full refund to the guests.
Lee claimed the city’s action “has obstructed and interfered with the orderly administration of justice,” and asked the court for sanctions, including “compensatory damages, punitive fines and attorneys’ fees.”
City Corporation Counsel Michael Driscoll and Planning Director Deanna Rhodes, who oversees the planning, zoning and building departments, could not be reached for comment Monday.
On Thursday, the day before she filed the court motion, Lee emailed a letter to Shuck, Norwich Building Official Dan Coley and Fire Marshal Mark Gilot, addressing them as “Dear Three Stooges” and asking each of them questions prefaced with insults and accusations that they do not understand federal law and state building codes.
“Please answer the following questions regarding your ‘code’ enforcement actions so we can determine whether you are too stupid to know that you have committed federal felony or you committed mail fraud, wire fraud, extortion under color of law …,” Lee wrote.
Addressing Coley, Lee wrote that “only a brain-dead person” would consider erecting an event tent on private property to be a violation of state building code. “Are you a Brain-dead person?” she wrote.
The city and Lee have been at odds for the past several years over her continuing use of residential properties at 270 Broadway, 380 Washington St. and 138 Mediterranean Lane as large-event venues. Lee received approval for a bed-and-breakfast inn at the Mount Crescent House at 270 Broadway, but never received final permits, which would require the completion of fire safety measures, such as the installation of a sprinkler system. Lee argued such work would ruin the historic character of the mansion home.
Lee purchased the historic Lathrop Manor bed-and-breakfast with permits intact. But city regulations require bed-and-breakfast inns to be owner-occupied. Neither the Lathrop Manor nor Mount Crescent House are owner-occupied. The house at 138 Mediterranean Lane is on a narrow residential street near the Norwichtown Green.
Neighbors have complained to city officials about large events on Lee’s properties, including excessive noise, vehicles parking on the residential streets or on neighbors’ properties and large delivery trucks bringing supplies to the events.