Old Town contractor stuck between ‘heavy hammer’ and ‘hothead’
Ryan Summerlin August 12, 2014
City Hall and a contractor are in a dispute about whether a proper procedure was followed when the walls of an old house were disassembled in July in preparation for the rehabilitation of the house.
Anya Grahn, who is the historic preservation planner at City Hall, said parts of the south, north and east walls of a house at 1015 Park Ave. were disassembled in four panels. They are being stored under a tarp in Heber and will be reattached as part of the redone house, she said.
According to Grahn, Park City officials earlier determined the project meets Old Town’s strict design guidelines. The Park City Building Department approved a plan for the construction, she said.
As the contractor was demolishing the interior of the house, there was a proposal to take down the exterior walls, put them in storage and reattach the salvageable sections of the walls to the redone house, Grahn said. The process is known as panelization. It is a common preservation method in Old Town.
Grahn, though, said the chief building official and the planning director at City Hall did not approve the plan before the work started. The plan was under review, she said. Grahn said the panelization followed the preservation plan that was submitted to City Hall but not approved prior to the work starting.
"It’s upsetting they jumped the gun," Grahn said.
She inspected the panels in Heber on Friday and is confident they are protected by the tarp.
The topic was raised at a recent Park City Council meeting. City Councilman Dick Peek, a contractor, appeared worried about the situation. Chad Root, the chief building official, told the elected officials the contractor did not precisely follow the permit for work at the site.
In an interview, Root said City Hall issued a brief stop-work order when the work started in late July. Root said the stoppage was in effect for approximately one hour. Root said the crew already had started taking down the walls by the time the order was issued. The Building Department lifted the order based on worries the walls would collapse since the work had already started.
City Hall holds a lien on the property guaranteeing the finished project will keep the historic nature intact. If that does not occur, City Hall will consider collecting on the lien, Root said. The lien is based on $250 per square foot, but the precise number was not immediately available. Root said City Hall has not collected on a similar lien or guarantor since he arrived in 2011.
The Building Department and the Planning Department continue to investigate. Root said the results are expected by the end of the week.
"They started without the actual approval from the Planning Department," Root said, describing the intentions of the contractor as "malicious."
City Hall allowed foundation work and backfilling with dirt to proceed at the site for safety purposes, he said, noting there is a concern about the impact on neighboring houses.
Joe Witt, the general contractor at 1015 Park Ave., affirmed that the historic portions of the walls that were taken down in the panelization will be used in the project. He said he is confident the proper approvals were secured prior to the walls being disassembled.
Witt said the situation is based on a separate dispute between City Hall and a neighboring property owner, saying he is "100 percent caught in the crossfire." Witt likened his situation to that of a business at the Park City Mountain Resort base as PCMR is entangled in a high-profile lawsuit with its landlord that resort officials have said threatens PCMR.
"I feel like a restaurant owner at the base of PCMR . . . I’ve got a heavy hammer and hothead in the room," Witt said, referring to City Hall as the "heavy hammer" and the neighboring property owner as the "hothead."