Court hearing examines Tavern Building condition


By Matt Clevenger

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TROY — A near-capacity crowd filled the Miami County Court of Common Pleas on Wednesday, March 29, attending a public hearing regarding an injunction order to halt the demolition of the Tavern Building on West Main Street.

“The purpose of the hearing is solely to determine if there is an imminent danger of collapse of the building that would present a risk of harm to the public,” said Miami County Court of Common Pleas Judge Stacy M. Wall, who issued the injunction order after demolition was started on Wednesday morning. “The purpose of this hearing is not to discuss the merits of the complaint.”

“The issue for the court today is whether there’s an imminent risk of harm of that building collapsing, due to the demolition that did take place,” Wall said.

Miami County Chief Building official Rob England testified about the building’s current condition during the hearing. England also serves as chief building official for the city of Troy and a total of six counties.

“I would still consider it an unsafe situation,” England said, citing additional damage that was caused by heavy winds recently.

“Roof purlins are pulling out of the south wall at the top,” he said. “There’s a busted header on the south wall above the door and window that’s allowing the bricks above it to collapse.”

“Just a week ago, 50-mph-winds ripped off a 30-foot by 50-foot section of the roof,” said Steve Justice, attorney for the building’s owner Randy Kimmel. “It was an act of God that it didn’t cause damage to the neighboring property, or injure someone.”

England issued an adjudication order on Monday, March 27, citing an unsafe building/serious hazard at the Tavern Building. The order requires the property owner to abate the unsafe situation within 14 days.

“The order said to abate the unsafe situation,” England said. “I put that on the owner to decide how they want to abate the unsafe situation.”

The order was based on a report from structural engineers at Tri-Tech Engineering, England said.

“The order was written based on the engineering report that said it was in imminent danger of collapse,” he said.

Demolition work was started in the morning on Wednesday, March 29, then halted through an injunction order issued by Wall. Part of a 1930s-era garage and a portion of the old courthouse’s south wall had already been demolished before work was halted.

“We’ve hired a well-known construction contractor, Bruns Contracting, to prepare a demolition plan that is safe and effective to remove this facility consistent with the order we received from Mr. England,” Derek Muncy, attorney for Randy Kimmel, said.

“It’s an order that we were required to respond to,” he said. “It required my client to abate this within 14 days, under threat of potential criminal prosecution.”

“We believe that we have acted in accordance with the order that was issued to us lawfully,” Muncy said.

Attorneys for the city argued that demolition was only one of the options available to address the unsafe conditions, adding that no city or county official has specifically ordered demolition.

“There is no evidence whatsoever that anybody has made a determination through their lawful authority that this building represents an imminent risk of collapse,” Troy Law Director Grant Kerber said.

“His own engineer gave him three options to abate the unsafe conditions,” Kerber said. “One of those was to remove all the structures on the site, and one was just to remove the Oddfellows portion of the building closest to Main Street. There was also another option to just remove all or a portion of the third floor, to address the loose bricks.”

Attorneys representing the Troy Historic Preservation Alliance (THPA) and nearby property owners requested an opportunity to have their own engineers inspect the Tavern Building.

“We object to proceeding without the ability to have our own expert provided to have access to the building and have our own report created,” attorney Jeremy Tomb said.

Kimmel’s attorneys requested permission to remove debris from the demolition work that has been done, as well as structural inspections of buildings located on either side of the Tavern Building.

“I’ll make an order deciding the issue of whether the experts get to go into the other adjoining buildings,” Wall said.

A decision regarding Wednesday’s hearing will be rendered at a later time, she said, and a second hearing on the order’s merits will be held at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 4.

“The preliminary injunction was granted,” Wall said. “Because the demolition was in-process it has been stopped temporarily, and that issue needs to be resolved regardless of what I decide today on the imminent danger of collapse.”

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