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More on Orange County Gymnastics building

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Town Manager Roger Stancil sent an earlier e-mail to the Town Council last week about Orange County Gymnastics and the building they were renting from the town on Homestead Road. The town discovered at least $165,000 in repairs needed to remove asbestos and mold from the  building, and can't afford do to it now, so they've winterized it until they have the money, Stancil wrote.

Stancil says the business owners will address the council tonight about being kicked out of their temporary location at University Mall.

Here's the e-mail in full:

Orange County Gymnastics has contacted some of you with some questions. I thought the information below would be helpful.

Orange County Gymnastics acquired the business that was located at the Sport Art Gym on Homestead Road. This is a Town owned facility that we have rented for this purpose because the activity provided was consistent with our mission. When Orange County Gymnastics began to move into the building, they discovered mold. When the Town’s building maintenance staff investigated, they found not only mold but asbestos in the walls. Without budgeted funds to renovate the facility (estimated at a minimum of $165,000) we decided to close the building and winterize it until such time as funds were available to renovate the facility.  There are other issues with the building including ADA access, no air conditioning, etc.  We will include a CIP request in the FY 12-13 budget to renovate the building. 

Orange County Gymnastics then moved into space at University Mall. The Town has been working with Orange County Gymnastics and University Mall since early January to address the requirements of the NC Building and Fire Codes for use of the old Kerr Drug space as a gymnastics center.  Since this is a change of use from Mercantile to Assembly use, the space is required to meet the more stringent requirements as an assembly.  At the beginning of February we met with an Architect hired by University Mall to determine the upgrades and improvements needed to meet the Assembly requirements.  Since that time, the mall has decided not to finance the improvements and has terminated the lease effective  Feb. 29.

We do not have a comprehensive list of itemized violations, however the large issues are inappropriate exits for the calculated occupant load, lack of fire alarm notification devices, lack of required restrooms, lack of required tenant separation to adjacent tenants.  A change of use of this type would require a design by a registered Architect to verify the change of use requirements of the State Code were included.

At this time, our specific notification to the mall and the Orange County Gymnastics has been that the space does not currently meet the requirements of the NC Building Codes as an Assembly occupancy. This reference  is found in the NC Building Code (2009) under section 3406.1 which reads:

“Conformance- No change shall be made in the use or occupancy of any building that would place the building in a different division of the same group of occupancy, or in a different group of occupancies, unless such building is made to comply with the requirements of this code for such division or group of occupancy.  Subject to the approval of the local Building Official, the use or occupancy of existing building shall be permitted to be changed and the building is allowed to be occupied for purposes in other groups without conforming to all the requirements of this code, provided the new or proposed use is less hazardous, based on life and fire risk, than the existing use.”

Under the NC Building Code Administrative Codes and Policies, Orange Gymnastics is entitled to an appeal process to the NC Department of Insurance.  The section reads:

“Any person may appeal in writing an order, decision or determination of a code enforcement official pertaining to the code or any state building law.  The appeal shall be addressed to the Chief Engineer for the Department of Insurance by filing written notice within 10 days after the order, decision or determination.  The appeal shall contain the type and size of building in question, the location of the building and shall reference the code sections in question.  The decision shall be in writing and shall set forth the facts found.  The decision rendered shall be based on the technical provisions of the code, public health and safety and shall be construed liberally to those ends.  A decision shall be binding on all parties unless an appeal is submitted to the Building Code Council as specified in Section 202.9.2 (NC Building Code Admin. Codes and Policies).  A copy of the appeal and written decision shall be furnished to each party.” (Reference NC GS 160A-434).

As the code enforcement officials for the Town, Building Inspections and the FIre Marshal will issue the gym an official, dated notice on Wednesday now knowing that they may want to initiate a due process appeal.  This will allow them 10 days to issue an appeal with the NC Dept. of Insurance.

I will also meet with the owners of Orange County Gymnastics to explore if any agreement with them for use of the building on Homestead Road could provide the resources to renovate the building in exchange for a long term lease agreement.

Please let me know if you need anything further.

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About the blogger

Katelyn Ferral covers Orange County for The News & Observer and The Chapel Hill News.