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Downtown business owner disputes city's claims

 

The back wall of Ann Davis’ real estate business, located at 421 Main Street, collapsed Monday, injuring Davis. Davis says that while she realized there were some structural issues with the wall, she was unaware that it the deficiencies were so severe as to render it unsafe.

The back wall of Ann Davis’ real estate business, located at 421 Main Street, collapsed Monday, injuring Davis. Davis says that while she realized there were some structural issues with the wall, she was unaware that it the deficiencies were so severe as to render it unsafe. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

The following related files and links are available.

 

PDF file File: Permit for 421 Main St. remodel

Sarah Fowler

 

A Columbus Realtor is disputing claims that she allowed work on her downtown building without a proper permit from the city. 

 

On Monday, the back brick wall at 421 Main St. collapsed, injuring Ann Davis, who suffered a broken arm and broken ribs. 

 

City building inspector Kenny Wiegel told The Dispatch Tuesday that Davis did not have a permit to allow construction on the wall. Davis, though, did receive a permit from Wiegel's office in November that allowed her to remodel the front of the building, which she purchased late last year. 

 

Davis, in an interview Thursday, said it is her understanding that that permit also allowed construction work to take place on the back wall. 

 

"I had a permit for the whole building -- 421 Main," Davis said. "I don't want it to look like I'm not a business person, that I didn't get my permits, that I didn't do everything that was right." 

 

Wiegel, however, said on Thursday that the permit did not allow "any work in the rear, period." 

 

"Giving her the benefit of the doubt," Wiegel said, "she seems to think she had a permit. But the scope of work listed clearly describes the work." 

 

The $135 permit application, which The Dispatch obtained Tuesday, lists three projects Davis intended to undertake: Installing a new wall to separate the reception area, lowering the ceilings and adding new lightning. The permit itself only lists "remodeling" for the construction work to be done. 

 

While the permit application states that the work would cost roughly $25,000, Davis said she has spent $80,000 on the building's remodel. 

 

When asked about the difference in cost, Davis said, "It's not unusual to have overruns that are double or triple." 

 

Wiegel said if he had known Davis planned for the project to go over the anticipated cost, he would not have approved the permit. 

 

"I wouldn't have been able to issue the permit had it exceed $50,000," he said. "Any work that exceeds $50,000 has to be done by somebody that has a state license, that's a state law... That's just factual across the board no matter who it is." 

 

Wiegel said the permit does not mention any structural work. 

 

After the collapse, Wiegel said the wall's demise was due to it not being structurally sound. Wiegel has previously said he spoke with Davis about her hiring structural engineers to repair the wall. On Thursday, Wiegel said he misspoke. He did not speak with Davis about the wall's structural issues prior to it collapsing.  

 

Arthur Burr was the brick mason working on the wall prior to its collapse. Burr said it was obvious the wall wasn't structurally sound. 

 

"Well, I guess anybody would know, if a brick wall crumbles, it can't be structurally sound," he said. "If that's the case, we all need to be running. That's the reason that I was up there." 

 

Davis maintains that she did not know the wall was unsafe. 

 

"I knew there was some structural problems when I bought it but that's why I had Arthur," she said. "He said he could fix it so I most certainly didn't know it was unsafe. That wall is 18 inches, who would have thought it would have caved in?" 

 

Wiegel said he is still trying to determine if Davis will receive a fine.

 

Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.

 

 

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