The five-story Palm Beach Resort condominium in Orange Beach is not in imminent risk of collapse, according to engineers who recently inspected the building. As Lagniappe previously reported, the condo’s homeowners association sued developer Brett/Robinson last year, alleging pile driving related to the construction of the towering Phoenix Gulf Towers next door caused cracks in the foundation, walls and floors of Palm Beach.
In a motion to pause construction, the plaintiffs argued the damage could threaten the building’s integrity, potentially “causing injury and death to tenants.” The plaintiffs pointed to an engineering report by Dr. John Cleary of the University of South Alabama, which determined the cracking was likely caused by the pile driving and suggested any additional pile driving activity could exacerbate the problem.
Cleary recommended the vibrations and cracking continue to be monitored, that all condo units be inspected for damage, that all damage be evaluated by a qualified engineer and repairs made “after movement subsides and/or after construction activities have ended.” He never suggested Palm Beach was in danger of collapse.
Meanwhile, Brett/Robinson believed the damage existed before construction on the Gulf Towers began, and argued any pause in construction would result in economic damages.
The case gained some notice in June after the sudden collapse of a 12-story condo building in Miami, Fla., killed 98 people. At the time, Baldwin County Circuit Court Judge Scott Taylor ordered an independent inspection of the building.
Last week, the parties agreed to cancel the hearing on the motion to pause construction, after the inspection yielded a favorable report.
According to an affidavit obtained from the City of Orange Beach, the building was inspected on July 6 by Marc Barter and James Russell from structural engineering firm Barter & Associates.
“We made a visual inspection of the building, consisting of all of the exterior walkways, the stairwells, columns, beams and slabs,” Barter wrote, noting he also reviewed Cleary’s report. “Based on my review of the documents, my inspection of the property and the information provided by HOA representatives, it is my opinion that, at the present time, there are no structural deficiencies that place the occupants, the public or the adjacent property owners at risk.”
Attorney Adam Milam, who is representing Palm Beach, said the engineering report is “obviously a good thing,” but it doesn’t affect the substance of the case.
“The fact that it is not in imminent danger of collapse has no bearing on the fact that they severely and substantially damaged the building,” Milam said, adding the ongoing construction is continuing to be a nuisance for Palm Beach owners in other ways. “It’s still a strong case. The way [Gulf Towers] is being constructed is causing all kinds of problems, headaches, dangers and hazards Palm Beach owners should not have to deal with.”
2021.09.13 Affidavit - Marc S Barter
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