The Maples Inn blame game
Updated 6:23 pm, Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Three months ago in November, the main building at the historic Maples Inn construction site collapsed due to excessive winds, according to the owners and developers of the site.
However, a recent New York Times article emphasized that negligence during construction may have factored into what happened.
"In my opinion, the cause of the collapse wasn't wind," Brian Platz, New Canaan's chief building Official, told the Times. "The cause was negligence."
Andrew Glazer, the developer of the construction site, is the man under scrutiny in the Times article for decisions made during the construction process. Platz said that Glazer went ahead with renovations without properly bracing the structure even after he was asked to do so. The article also states that Glazer went ahead with all of this without a proper permit.
Platz told the Times that Glazer "had gone further" than he was expected to by "gradually gutting the inn, and removing its exterior sheathing and the porch."
"He just took full liberties," Platz told the Times. "I contacted him immediately and said, `What are you doing?' He said he needed to do that to expose the structure."
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According to the article, Glazer denied doing anything wrong, saying that the work is "very difficult."
"You have to understand what the structure is, to know what you can preserve and what you can't," Glazer said in the piece.
Still, Platz and others believe that more could have been done to prevent the damage.
"The operation should have been shut down, after sheathing had been reinstalled to protect this historic building from its inevitable collapse," Mimi Findlay, President of the New Canaan Preservation Alliance, told the New Canaan News.
"Last summer some board members of the New Canaan Preservation Alliance toured the property with Mr. Glazer, and our architect and our contractor both pointed out the lack of bracing and the potential for collapse."
Glazer was unavailable for comment at this time. Owner of the property, Tom Kennedy, had no comment on the matter of negligence but did say that reconstruction was "going well."
"It was very old and sort of rickety," Kennedy said at the time of collapse. "Then I guess the wind just shook the whole thing and brought it down on itself."
Kennedy explained that they had been "surgically" rebuilding the main house of the inn in an attempt to preserve the historic significance of the structure. While most would expect a collapse like this to hinder the upcoming development of luxury condos, Kennedy believes it will have the opposite effect.
"This might actually end up speeding up the process," he said. He explained that before it was more about taking it slow to rebuild and preserve the main house of the property. Now the goal will be to simply move ahead with the project.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) opened an investigation back in November, which has yet to be finished. It is unclear what the ramifications of those findings would mean for this project. According to the article, Platz hired Val Ericson, an engineer to run his own investigation. He found that negligence indeed played a role in the collapse. According to Ericson, the building was more susceptible to wind in its deconstructed and stripped-down form. Ericson also claimed that the building's structural integrity was compromised thanks to "the cutting and reframing of posts and timbers under the first floor."
Still, the construction is continuing as planned and is scheduled for completion sometime this summer or fall. The new condominiums are expected to match the old building in look and style. The only potential roadblocks for Kennedy and Glazer are the results of the Federal OSHA investigation as well as increased attention and scrutiny. Time will tell what happens, but one thing is certain, even though the historic building collapsed, it's influence is proving to be sturdier than the structure itself.