Judge upholds decision allowing renovations to Aiken's Rice Cottage

Sep. 6—Luis Rinaldini's appeal of an Aiken Design Review Board decision has been denied.

Judge Daniel Coble signed an order Aug. 31 dismissing Rinaldini's appeal of a Design Review Board decision allowing renovations to Rice Cottage, a historic property at 411 South Boundary Ave. S.E.

The Design Review Board approved renovations to Rice Cottage on May 2. Approved renovations include moving an exterior wall 7 feet closer to the property line, removing siding from the ground floor, replacing rotting wood on the front porch with bricks and enlarging an upstairs bathroom by extending an existing small roof.

Rinaldini said he didn't think Coble denied his appeal on its merits.

Coble provided three reasons for denying the appeal in the order.

First, Coble said Rinaldini's appeal did not include a summons.

A summons is a document informing a defendant that he's being sued and how to answer the allegations contained in the suit. Rule 5(d) of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure requires plaintiffs to file a summons and complaint with the clerk of court before serving defendants.

Therefore, Coble said, the appeal wasn't started properly and the court did not have jurisdiction over the Design Review Board.

Second, Coble said Rinaldini's appeal was barred because he didn't file it in time.

Persons wishing to appeal a Design Review Board decision have 30 days to do so, Coble said. He added Rinaldini spoke May 2 when the Design Review Board approved the renovations therefore he had notice on that date. Meaning his appeal had to be filed by June 2 at the latest, Coble said.

Rinaldini didn't file his appeal until June 7.

Third, Coble said Rinaldini failed to join the owners of Rice Cottage, Thomas and Catherine Nance, to the appeal as required by law.

Rinaldini added filing pro se there were going to be mistakes, some that could be terminal to the appeal and others that could be corrected. He added he would learn from the judge's order.

"It's kind of shocking and shameful the city is using taxpayer resources to hide its misdoings or to evade its responsibilities by filing technical motions and objections," Rinaldini added.

Design Review Board attorneys Jim Holly and Andrew Lindemann filed a motion asking the court to dismiss the appeal July 14.

They argued the appeal should be dismissed because Rinaldini didn't include a summons. They argued the appeal should be dismissed because Rinaldini didn't file it in time.

And they argued the appeal should be dismissed because Rinaldini didn't include the owners of the property, Thomas and Catherine Nance, as parties to his appeal.

"But it's the way it works in the municipal world," Rinaldini said.

Rinaldini, a member of the Do It Right Alliance and a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed to stop Project Pascalis, added there is a campaign to change that.

He said he filed his appeal June 7 pro se — for himself — in part to make a point to the Design Review Board.

He argued the board didn't follow the proper standards or procedures, that the board ignored previous unapproved alterations made, that the board didn't follow state law, that the board didn't follow the city's zoning ordinance and the board failed to act as a quasi-judicial body.

"If they read what they did, it's shocking and shameful regardless of what the judge says," Rinaldini said. "Ask yourself: the exposition of what the Design Review Board did is shocking and shameful and the judge allowed them to get away with it. Is that a good thing for Aiken or a bad thing for Aiken?"