As reported last week, Duncan, accompanied by Bruce Lessles from Zoar Outdoor, is asking the DRB for a conditional use permit so that Zoar may open an “adventure center” at the location. Duncan is also asking for a permit to make changes to the exterior of the building since it is located in the town’s designated historic district. These changes would include work on the roof design as well as on the front of the building. The third approval Duncan is seeking is due to the location of the building in the flood fringe zone. Because Duncan wants to repair and improve a building in that area, its value helps to determine the cost of the work. If Duncan plans on an improvement estimate of over 50% of the building’s value, he would be required to perform anchoring, and costly flood-proofing.
The value of Duncan’s property was the biggest issue at the meeting. Last week the DRB decided to recess to allow Duncan to bring in new estimates for the work and materials, as well as his property’s worth. The town listers value the building at $75,000, which means Duncan would have to spend no more than $37,500 before performing the more costly work. Duncan believes the building has been greatly undervalued.
In 2012, Duncan obtained a zoning permit to perform repairs on an estimated $18,932 worth of damage from Tropical Storm Irene. Through a substantial-damage estimator used in 2012, the value of the building was estimated at $105,000, a number which represented total replacement cost should each of the building’s elements need to be replaced, such as the foundation, valued at $12,607, and the superstructure at $25,215. The building was labeled not substantially damaged through the estimation. The permit was extended this year, and Duncan told the board that he could not see how the damage repair allotted in the 2012 permit could combine with the improvements he intends to make to facilitate a business.
“If the structure is substantially damaged then they’re considered substantial improvements,” said Duncan. “What I’m saying is that, by that definition, unless the building is substantially damaged, the two can’t be combined. I’m objecting to his (Carvajal) melding of the two.”
At the March 17 DRB meeting, Duncan also brought in a value of $246,000 which represented a handshake agreement he and Lessles had come to for an all-out purchase of the property. The DRB will be able to consider all three estimated values in their deliberations.
Duncan also presented the estimated cost of the materials and work for fixing and improving the building. Included on the list were anchoring bolts and flood-proofing measures he believes will satisfy the requirements set forth by Carvajal. The construction would also include pouring a new concrete foundation and installing a flood-breakable window in the basement to relieve pressure on the building should flood waters rise. Duncan believes the materials provided in a list to the DRB fully satisfy all of Carvajal’s concerns regarding the reconstruction of the building. Materials and labor for the project come to an estimated total of $52,414, a number far above 50% of the building’s listed value, but below the value of the substantial damage estimation of 2012.
In a letter addressed to zoning administrator Alice Herrick, dated March 13, Carvajal explained that Duncan had not yet provided an elevation certificate prepared by an engineer or a licensed land surveyor. Duncan wrote a response to each of the letter’s points and submitted it to the DRB, detailing his compliance on this matter. “According to FEMA’s most recent base flood elevation (BFE) map, the BFE is 1,508.4 feet,” explained Duncan. “These same maps indicate this elevation runs virtually through our building, and the BFE is less than two feet above the first floor level.”
According to Duncan, the previous three floods, in 1938, 1976, and 2011, all exceeded this level by two to three feet. Duncan went on to explain he intended to use flood-resistant materials to an elevation of no less than three feet above the BFE. “This makes the most economic sense given any future flood event.”