Mold gone, man returns to problem-plagued Line | ParkRecord.com

Mold gone, man returns to problem-plagued Line

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Chris McKendry is sleeping in his own bed, hanging out in his living room and eating in his kitchen.

About a month after he had to abandon his unit in the Line Condominiums, as mold overtook the one-bedroom, he returned to the Deer Valley Drive affordable-housing project, his forced relocation giving cleanup and fix-it crews the time to get rid of the mold and make sure it does not return.

He says there have not been problems in the two weeks he’s been back and he is pleased Mountainlands Community Housing Trust, the not-for-profit that built the Line, repaid him for some of the bills he amassed during the move.

"It’s been relaxing. I’m happy to be in," McKendry says.

His experience, though, is the most dramatic in a series of complaints at the problem-plagued Line, which was envisioned as a showcase project for affordable housing in Park City but, as delays, cost increases and bickering between City Hall and Mountainlands took hold, instead is seen by some as an eyesore and an example of not-for-profit bumbling.

Most recently, the local government, which financially backed the project, and Mountainlands engaged in a dispute about $20,000 of the nonprofit’s money. City Hall seized the money after, according to the government, Mountainlands failed to appropriately reconstruct historic houses on the property.

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McKendry, a 29-year-old from Buffalo, N.Y., who moved to Park City in 2002 for the Winter Olympics, once living in a walk-in closet for three months on Park Avenue, works at the Main Street steakhouse Butcher’s and Wild Oats Natural Marketplace at Redstone, earning enough to buy one of the Line units. They were generally priced between $107,000 and $196,000.

He moved into his place in July 2006, noticing problems with fixtures and hinges, chemicals leaking from pipes in a utility closet and leaks from a neighbor’s gutter spilling into his shower’s fan.

November, as damp weather set in, though, he found green-colored mold growing in a corner of the living room. Soon, more mold, a patch about 2 1/2 feet in diameter, grew on the kitchen ceiling and down a wall. He discovered mold above the shower in the bathroom, along the baseboard of a storage closet where the hot-water heater sits and in a kitchen corner behind cabinets.

"Issues don’t go like they’ve gone in these units," he says, claiming that the mold in his place is a result of design flaws.

McKendry says Mountainlands sent a crew into his unit to gut the place. The back wall of the kitchen was torn open, vinyl flooring was removed and the carpet in the living room and bedroom was ripped up because of dampness, he says. He had to store his possessions, including his refrigerator and dishwasher, in his garage.

Mountainlands, he says, told him the work would take two or three weeks but he was out of the place, staying in a unit Mountainlands provided him in Prospector, for almost double that time.

"It ticked me off," he says. "It disrupted everything."

Ron Ivie, City Hall’s chief building official, investigated and says people in three of the Line units reported mold. The other two cases were not as serious as McKendry’s, Ivie says. He claims design flaws allowed the mold. Ivie says the project lacked the necessary insulation when it was built. He says a Mountainlands architect has designed a repair using watertight foam insulation.

He says environmental investigators found 15 types of mold and four varieties were deemed to be in a high concentration. He says there was not believed to be a health risk.

"I wasn’t simply willing to take a chance so we cleaned it up," Ivie says.

The $20,000 that City Hall seized, which Mountainlands had posted as a guarantee related to the historic houses, could be put toward fighting the mold’s cause or other improvements at the Line, Park City Manager Tom Bakaly says.

At Mountainlands, Scott Loomis, the executive director, acknowledges there was a design defect and says the nonprofit, at a "substantial" cost, fixed the unit.

"All the walls and insulation came out. The mold had gotten in there," Loomis says. "It was literally ripped to the bones. It’s like building a new unit inside."

For McKendry, though, last winter was frustrating and he wonders if the mold made him sick. He says he usually is healthy but he got the flu and his sinuses became infected. He is considering having a doctor check his lungs.

Still, buying the Line unit provided him the opportunity to own a home, his first, in Park City. Without Mountainlands, he says, he would have remained a renter.

"I wouldn’t be able to afford anything else in Park City," McKendry says. "Realistically, I wouldn’t be able to."