By Judy Clabes
A real estate dispute in Covington’s historic Licking Riverside has neighbors in a feud that rivals the legendary Hatfields and McCoys – ‘bullets fired’ being legal deposits that come and go and pile up as high as the grand mansion “Main House”.
Now that Kenton Circuit Judge Kathleen Lape, who has a reputation for moving at the speed of a glacier, has in fact issued a final opinion awarding the garage in question to the owners of the main house, the stage is set. for an appeal – currently pending – to a more neutral instance, the State Court of Appeals.
His is a decision that defies common sense and mostly ignores arguments from “the other side” – one that doesn’t have friendly relations with the Kenton County Courthouse. She nevertheless presents herself without opposition to keep her seat on the bench.
In 2018, since Lorrie and Scott Hill bought their dream home, a carriage house at the confluence of the Licking and Ohio rivers, and now they’ve spent hundreds of thousands in legal fees to keep what their deed says it will. they own – the Carriage House at 109 Shelby in Covington and two garages on their property.
Perhaps the delay was calculated to increase legal costs since Lape often warned the Hills and their legal counsel that she “didn’t have time” to sign their documents or watch their videos or say “I don’t am not a playground supervisor”. All of this you can see in videos from Lape’s courtroom. And, say the Hills, there were plenty of jeers from the other side that boiled down to — “don’t you just want to walk away and avoid all those legal bills.”
On February 1, Judge Lape’s long-awaited final opinion awarded one of the garages on the hills deed – due to “adverse possession” – to the owners of the main house, Marc Tischbein and Peggy Rankin.
Read Judge Lape’s decision below to see that it spells out in detail the arguments made by Tischbein-Rankin’s lawyers and barely acknowledges the contrary and/or contradictory arguments made by the Hills lawyers.
The matter is usually complicated – and for four years it has been mean, sometimes mean-spirited, and fueled by courthouse cronyism and got uglier.
In 2018, the Hills wanted to return to Lorrie’s hometown after Scott’s open-heart surgery and their successful careers back East. She held a senior government post before taking time off to raise two children and work from home. Scott Hill is senior vice president of a publishing company in New York, a job he continues remotely. After a long drive to New York, Scott could see the benefits of a slower paced life. Their youngest child, a daughter, graduated from Notre Dame Academy – with honors – and is now a student at the University of Kentucky.
Lorrie dreamed of a house by the river and learned from David Klingshirn, a deacon at their church in Cincinnati, that his Carriage House was for sale.
Few hill people could have expected the tangle of long personal relationships into which they fell in northern Kentucky. Now they have a better understanding as others who considered buying the property said they walked away due to the complicated relationships involved – which the Hills were blissfully unaware of.
Klingshirn, a retired Covington pharmacist, purchased the main house property at 420-422 Riverside Drive in 1986. He eventually teamed up with his close friend Marc Tischbein, also a Covington businessman, to buying and renovating the main house and they lived there together. until 1993. Klingshirn paid more of the expenses during this time.
In April 1993, Klingshirn, Tischbein, and Rankin, then Tischbein’s fiancé, jointly purchased the shed and eventually built two attached garages, remodeled the house, and provided a driveway and gate shared by the two properties. At this time, only Klingshirn was listed on the deed to the main house.
From 1993 to 2001, the three parties shared the properties and no written agreement existed between them, verbally changing the arrangements who pays what by mutual agreement as they went along. Then, in 2001, they decided to realign their stakes in the two properties. Tischbein and Rankin became the sole owners of the main house and Klingshirn became the sole owners of the coach house and the deeds described the boundaries of the two properties. They had an unspoken agreement that at some point they would sell the property in one piece – and split the proceeds of the whole 50-50.
Above all, over the next 17 years, their lives continued as they always had.
When Klingshirn turned 75, he wanted to reduce his living expenses and exercise the “gentleman’s agreement” with Tischbein that they would sell both properties as they had agreed. Tischbein and Rankin were unwilling to sell and refused to buy the Carriage House because Klingshirn wanted too much.
And so begins the wonderful outcome of a friendship.
Klingshirn put the Carriage House on the market with a realtor in 2017. The Hills ultimately paid $625,000 for the property listed at $725,000 and a survey of the property showed the property had two garages and no easement or agreement had otherwise been registered. .
In a deposition, Klingshirn said, “I think Marc thought he owned that garage because he parked there…”
Here is part of Klingshirn’s testimony filed in Lape’s court, although she does not mention it in her final opinion:
Q: When you exchanged your deeds (with Tischbein/Rankin), did you understand that the ownership of the second garage was then yours?
K: I’d be silly to say, I’m going to give you this, and I’m going to give you the big house, and I’m going to end up with half a property. No.
Q: Did or didn’t you realize that the second garage was part of 109 Shelby when you performed these acts?
K: 109 – both garages were on 109 Shelby.
Q: And did you know that when you signed the deeds?
Klingshirn told the Hills he had a “gentleman’s agreement” with Tischbein that the garage in question could be used by Tischbein. And he asked the Hills – once they had bought the Carriage House if they would allow Tischbein to continue using the garage as part of this “gentleman’s agreement”.
Since 2018, the Hills have paid property taxes on the property, which includes two garages, as well as insurance. Tischbein and Rankin made no effort to do so either.
When the Hills moved into the Carriage House, they offered Tischbein a “license deal” to continue using the garage, but he declined. The Hills have emails showing he lamented the loss of value of his Main House property if he didn’t have off-street parking. At no time did he claim that he owned the garage. Numerous e-mail exchanges secured by the NKyTribune confirm this. But when asked to leave their garage, he hired a lawyer, Peggy Rankin’s brother-in-law, to take legal action against the Hills.
It was August 2018, just two months after the Hills purchased the Carriage House.
In a motion filed by the Hills’ lawyers in August 2018, they wrote: ‘Marc and Peggy’s belief (that they own the garage) appears to be novel’ as they never claimed to own any of the garages. on the grounds of Carriage House. Their argument of “adverse possession” seems even more novel since they also claimed to have a license to use the garage.
Again, there is no written agreement or recorded agreement on these matters between Klingshirn and Tischbein-Rankin. It would be interesting to know who has suggested the “adverse possession” strategy so far in the proceedings, as their argument ranges from license possession to “custodial possession,” two conflicting legal principles. This may be revealed in the appeal process.
Peggy Rankin has grown increasingly angry, telling her neighbors ‘they (the Hills) don’t belong here’ and claiming a close relationship at the Kenton County Courthouse that will protect her from ‘those Connecticut people’ .
The Hills filed a lawsuit against her for destroying their mailbox. She was convicted of criminal mischief, a misdemeanor, in the spring of 2019. More recently, the Hills filed a complaint against her for 2nd degree disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, for harassing and threatening them (Commonwealth v Rankin, Peggy) . Judge Lape told the Hills and their attorney that she did not have time to watch the videos. The prosecutor also settled that complaint with a misdemeanor — a small fine and court costs for Rankin for “honk abuse” (see video below). More recently, one evening, the police were called when an intoxicated Marc Tischbein tried to goad Scott Hill into a fight.
Needless to say, there is no love lost between the neighbors living in this historic riverside paradise of preservation.
“Abuse of the horn”
The “destroy” solution
In the meantime, the Hills decided to pursue a course of action that Klingshirn himself once postulated: “Tear down the garage if you wish so that you can use your property to its best advantage.” So they asked the Covington Board of Architecture Review & Development to do just that. (The old zoning board that Tischbein had long chaired is now part of this new board. Due to his history there, Tischbein was not appointed to the new reorganized board).
Council granted their request because it complied with zoning requirements. Although Tischbein and Rankin objected, the council proceeded given that the garage is clearly on the Hills’ deed.
The Hills have toyed with a long-term plan to replace the garage with a Tiny House, which is now permitted in Covington and for which they will have to submit plans to the review board.
Tischbein and Rankin have responded with a lawsuit against them and the City of Covington, and that lawsuit is now sitting and awaiting the outcome of the appeal process on the first lawsuit.
Tangled webs indeed.
If you want to know more:
• Read Judge Kathleen Lapes’ ruling in favor of “adverse possession” for Tischbein/Rankin
2022-02-01 Order for Summary Judgment
• Read Hills attorney’s filing in April 2020 in Judge Lape’s court.
Response from Hills attorney May 2020