By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH - Officials with the Town of Carolina Beach condemned the 30-unit Carolina Surf Condo building at 201 Carolina Beach Avenue South on Friday, June 30th following reports from an engineer regarding structural issues with the building.
According to a release issued by the Town Friday, "Carolina Surf Condos located at 201 Carolina Beach Avenue South was condemned today. This occurred after structural evaluations were conducted by engineers and town staff. The issue initially arose several weeks ago when staff requested an engineering analysis to be conducted. The request for the analysis was based on significant corrosion being detected on the steel that was exposed when contractors removed a portion of the stucco siding while replacing windows on the building. The engineering report indicated that the steel framing of the oceanfront decks was severely corroded. The decks were condemned and safety barriers were installed to prevent access to the areas below the decking. To ensure the deterioration was limited to the decking the home owners association requested the engineer review the structural integrity of other parts of the building. The engineering report released today listed the building as in significant danger of collapsing. Town Staff and the home owners association worked together to safely remove the occupants from the building and secure the area. Most of the units in the building are rentals. Those renting units all worked with the rental agencies to be relocated to other units. The condos are a secondary home for the other occupants that spoke with the Fire Department. They were all able to return to their primary residence. Staff will be submitting a letter to the home owners association on Monday establishing their responsibilities moving forward in accordance with state and local codes."
The oceanfront building containing 30-units was built in the early 1980's.
Assistant Town Manager Ed Parvin explained on Friday June 30th, "This was a result of an ongoing investigation that started with the Town discovering the condos had contractors working on the building without permits. The contractors were hired to replace the windows in the building and conduct repairs to the stucco around the deck areas. The building inspector gave them a stop work order and required them to pull permits and obtain an engineer evaluation. The engineer evaluation was required because some of the windows had already been installed without inspection. The building inspector was also told by one of the contractors that there was significant corrosion on the steel around the windows giving more justification for the engineer evaluation. One of the owners (unit 301) pushed the HOA to move forward on the stucco repairs. The HOA in turn had Chris Holmes (engineer) evaluate the balcony where some stucco had fallen off."
On June 23rd, Matthew Ward of the engineering firm Chris Holmes, P.E. & Associates, Inc wrote to Joseph Sample with the Carolina Surf HOA explaining, "We visited the site as requested to address a structural issue regarding failure of the finished ceiling materials at the balcony of Unit 301. Our findings and recommendations are as follows: The balconies consist of steel framing and elevated concrete slabs. Inspection of the steel framing has indicated that they have corroded to the point where their structural integrity has been severely compromised. It is the opinion of this office that this balcony is no longer safe to occupy and that that area directly below it is also no longer safe to occupy."
Ward wrote, "We observed evidence of other balconies that seem to have symptoms of the same failure mode. To make an accurate assessment of this issue three or four more balconies will need to have their finish materials removed to reveal the structural members for inspection. Note: In it imperative that the access to this balcony and the area below be restricted immediately. This balcony is in significant danger of collapse causing serious injury or death."
On June 26th, Ward wrote to Sample saying they investigated other balconies in the building and, "This morning we confirmed that the corrosion to the structural steel beams of the balconies is not isolated to ceiling of the balcony of Unit 301" and, "Based on these inspections and similar symptoms displayed on all balconies, we recommend that access to them be restricted. Also, due to the potential of falling debris we recommend that access to all areas directly below the balconies including parking and the swimming pool be restricted."
On June 26th, Town Building Inspector Darrell Johnson notified the HOA in writing the requirements to "protect the General Public Safety by eliminating the use of Balconies located on the ocean side of the Building." Johnson also required the HOA to erect barriers to prevent the public from entering the area of primary concern.
On June 30th, Ward wrote to the HOA explaining, "Inspection of newly discovered corrosion to the structural columns has revealed that the structural integrity of the entire southeast corner of the building has been completely compromised. The cross sectional area of the structural columns in question has been reduced to half of its original size and therefore half its intended capacity. The bolted and weld connections at the floor and balcony systems are entirely corroded away."
Ward explained, "Further inspection of other exposed columns has also shown a similar degree of structural compromise due to corrosion. Large amounts of steel are flaking off the webs and flanges of the beams. In order to accurately analyze the capacities of the compromised columns in their current state, the corrosion would need to be removed by sand blasting or other means, to measure the remaining uncompromised steel."
Ward wrote, "It is the opinion of this office that the building is no longer safe to occupy without further analysis. It is imperative that the access to all units in the building, in addition to all the ocean-side balconies and the area below be restricted immediately. This building is in significant danger of collapse, any residents choosing to remain in the building risk the possibility of serious injury or death."
On July 3rd, Building Inspector Darrell Johnson notified the Carolina Surf HOA in writing that, "This letter outlines the initial requirements that the HOA needs to safeguard the property and to identify corrective actions to address the structural deficiencies identified by the engineer for the HOA. Failure to take prompt corrective actions shall result in the Town taking action pursuant to NCGS 160A-428."
Johnson said the first requirement is for the installation of a safety fence that will keep the general public away from the building and secure it from trespassing. He wrote, "By July 14th, an Engineer evaluation of the Building's structural integrity and any requirements for shoring or bracing the building will be required to be submitted to the Building Inspections Department for review and evaluation. This evaluation should include the structures ability to withstand winds which might result from a tropical storm or hurricane. We would like for the Engineers to be in constant contact with the Town as new information becomes available to ensure we can stay in front of this situation."
Johnson explained, "Once the evaluations are completed and you can provide the Town of Carolina Beach a Plan of Action, we will commence with helping you obtain all the required permits and inspections as required. The building is condemned and as such, it should remain unoccupied. A copy of the Officers of the Board's Home Owners Association and contact information, the Legal Representative of the Board, and a copy of the Current list of Owner's with contact information is being requested at this time."
Steel supports during inspection by an engineer last week. The Town of Carolina Beach required the Home Owners Association to hire an engineer to inspect the structural integrity of a balcony on the ocean-side of the 30-unit condo building. That led to further investigation of other balconies. Access to all of the balconies was restricted due to safety concerns. Further investigation into the steel beams of the building prompted the Town to condemn the building and call for evacuation of all occupants until corrective actions can be taken.