Coleman’s “ark” gallery in permit process
by Mike Eldred
Jan 17, 2013 | 4050 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WILMINGTON- Ann Coleman took another step forward last week in her bid to build a new “floating” gallery on the same site where her previous gallery sat before it was washed away by flood waters during Tropical Storm Irene.

Coleman and her husband Joe Specht were joined by architect Joseph Cincotta and engineer Bob Stevens at their second hearing before the Wilmington Development Review Board Monday evening. Coleman has a 99-year lease on the West Main Street property, which is owned by the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce. Cheryl Rothman, president of the chamber’s board of directors, was also on hand as the official applicant in the matter.

Noting that there would probably have to be at least one more hearing on the application before the DRB could begin their deliberations, chair Nicki Steel said the evening would be best used to clear up questions regarding information the board has already heard. “I think we have fragments of things that have caused confusion, conflicting numbers,” she said. “I want to go over that, and get us all on the same sheet of music.”

Cincotta answered some of the board’s questions with an overview of a site plan with revised measurements, including the distance from the chamber of commerce building. Cincotta noted that the chamber had specified that there should be at least 17 feet between the two buildings to allow room for two parking spaces. “We have 17 feet, eight inches between the chamber and our handicap access ramp (on the side of Coleman’s building),” he said.

Cincotta also explained an extended roof overhang at the back of the building. “We’re trying to get the water away from the building. The last building had a lot of rot along the back that had to be replaced.”

Bob Stevens explained how the building would float in the event of a future flood.

Stevens said the building’s floating feature wasn’t needed to comply with flood regulations. Because the first floor will be above the official flood elevation and the building’s systems are above the floor, it already meets minimum requirements of flood-proofing. “But we know that floods higher than that occur,” he said. “Irene floodwaters were four feet above the flood level.”

Rather than building a traditional structure beefed up enough to withstand the impact of a flood, Stevens and Cincotta designed a lightweight building that would rise up with the floodwaters.

Stevens said floating buildings weren’t a new idea; they’ve been built in other flood-prone communities. For Coleman’s building, he said, the bottom of the structure will be enveloped by a waterproof membrane that will reach as high as 30 inches above the floor. Floodgates that can be installed in the doorways and windows complete the transformation from art gallery to ark gallery.

In the event of imminent flooding, Coleman and Specht would install the floodgates and disconnect the sewer and water using special quick-disconnect valves.

The building would be anchored by four posts at each corner; a ring around each post would connect to the building. Stevens said the posts would withstand substantially more lateral force than he calculated would be exerted on the building during a flood. “Each of these four piers can resist the entire velocity of the floodwaters trying to move the building,” he told DRB members.

To secure the building against the force of a flood using traditional construction, Cincotta added, would require foundation walls buried impractically deep. “A typical four-foot foundation wouldn’t have been enough,” Cincotta said. “We would have had to put a vast amount of concrete in the ground. The cost would have been about $32,000, a lot of money.”

Cincotta said the building would also have to be bolted directly to the foundation, without any insulation, resulting in a lifetime of higher heating bills.

Steel asked about a buried fuel tank that may be on the property, a relic from the chamber building’s past as a gas station. Rothman said it wasn’t clear whether the tank was actually there. “We have no information on it whatsoever,” she said. “At some point someone walked around there with a metal detector and said there was metal there.”

In any case, Rothman said, the chamber board “doesn’t feel like it’s our fiduciary responsibility to take care of it,” suggesting that it would be Coleman’s responsibility to remove it. The tank is located under the area that had been occupied by Coleman’s original gallery.

The board scheduled another hearing for Monday, February 4, at 7 pm.
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