Troy Tavern owner: Demolition must start in a week to avoid Strawberry Fest

County cites new information, again calls Main Street building “serious hazard;” historical group questions validity of new engineer report

TROY — Miami County’s chief building official Tuesday reversed his order on Troy’s controversial Tavern/IOOF building, once again labeling it as “a serious hazard/unsafe structure” and requiring the owner to “abate all unsafe conditions immediately.”

The exact meaning of the adjudication order was debated, with county Prosecutor Anthony Kendell saying he expects other filings, including another request for a court injunction.

“All parties were copied so they have time to be heard,” Kendell said of the order from Rob England, chief building official for both the county and city of Troy. “Let things play out in the courtroom.”

Lawyers for building owner 116 West Main said Wednesday they would ask the court to dissolve an April 18 injunction agreement that prohibited any further demolition of the building, so they could follow the adjudication order and begin demolition.

They said an estimated 14-day demolition needs to start on or before May 18 to complete demolition before the Troy Strawberry Festival, which is held downtown and begins June 3.

The owners’ lawyers cited the latest engineering report, which mentioned public safety concerns about the stability of the north wall along Main Street. They want the barriers that currently block parking and pedestrian sidewalk access in front of the building pushed further north into Main Street.

Troy Strawberry Festival leaders said Wednesday they would work with the city on any safety issues.

“The Strawberry Festival prioritizes the safety of our volunteers, vendors and attendees. As we do every year, we will work closely with the city of Troy and will adhere to any additional requirements needed for this year’s festival,” said Kathi Roetter of the Troy Area Chamber of Commerce.

Building owners had started demolition of the damaged 112-118 W. Main St. building in late March, but were halted after city and court action. Parties then agreed to a preliminary injunction order that included a ban on demolishing or removing any part of the structure for now, among other conditions.

Lawyers for 116 West Main Street requested the new adjudication order Friday. They cited another engineer’s inspection of the structure, which has parts dating to the 1800s, last week.

Engineer Michael Wright of Safety Through Engineering said in the report that: “The subject buildings are presently/currently unsafe (not structurally sound), and there exists a significant risk of detachment or dislodgment of a portion or member of the building under service loads (in danger of imminent partial collapse), which constitutes a dangerous condition and serious hazard to human life and the public welfare. The subject buildings are presently/currently not in compliance with Ohio reasonable care industry requirements to protect the public welfare.”

Wright said the existing fencing should be relocated “to the north at least to the second lane of the street for eastward traffic and people must be restricted from walking on the sidewalk around the building’s frontage area.”

The new adjudication order calls for abatement of concerns with the building, England said. “We didn’t tell him to tear it down. We said he has to abate the serious hazard. It is up to him to decide how to abate,” he said.

England on March 27 issued a first adjudication order stating the building was unsafe and ordering abatement of the situation within 14 days. That order later was rescinded by England after review of two additional engineering reports submitted by the city of Troy and Evil Empire LLC, who have opposed demolition.

England said this week that he went through the building top to bottom Monday, including viewing the structure through holes cut for access for the latest report.

“What had changed in a new report by Michael Wright was he got into some areas that none of the other engineers had access to, some pictures I had never seen,” England said.

He saw very large structural members broken and cracked and said at the face of the building, the top of the parapet wall bricks could be pulled from the mortar.

England said the Wright report also went through a peer review by another architect from outside the county with no role in the building. The peer agreed with Wright’s conclusions, he said.

City of Troy officials said Wednesday they were waiting for information from their engineer before commenting on the adjudication order.

The Troy Historic Preservation Alliance, a nonprofit citizens group working to save the structure, questioned the validity of the new engineering study.

“This building was found to be safe just three weeks ago by Miami County and only in need of repair. No weather event since then has changed this reality. Today’s adjudication order flies in the face of common sense, is profoundly irresponsible, and calls into question the integrity of Miami County’s adjudication process whenever the structural soundness of a building is called into question — in this case by its own owner,” THPA said, in a statement provided by Ben Sutherly.

“The county’s chief building official does not have an engineer license. On what basis is he giving preference to the property owner’s engineering report over other reports, including the recent independent, in-person assessment of a structural engineer hired by the city of Troy that found the building was structurally sound?” THPA asked.

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