LIMA — After informed of a non-permitted residential build, the City of Lima is now checking into a local construction company by re-examining its past permits and work.
Blue Chip Housing received a cease-and-desist order from the city in mid-April after the company was found to have pushed forward a housing project at 1414 Hazel Ave. without the required paperwork.
Owner Brady Schroeder said the intention was to keep his employees working during the coronavirus pandemic, and that the city’s permitting process encumbered the creation of needed housing in the area.
“We’re trying to follow rules,” Schroeder said. “We really would like to work there tomorrow. It’s going to rain. These guys don’t have work tomorrow. We could have had work tomorrow. We could have been insulating, pulling wires and finish framing inside. There’s a lot more we could have been doing. Now, we can’t. They put a cease and desist order on it.”
Schroeder said he initially purchased 1414 Hazel Ave. though his company Blue Chip Housing back in October to create a fully-furnished duplex to target medical professionals-in-training in need of quality rentals. At the time, a single-family dwelling sat on the purchased plot, and in order to make it a duplex, Blue Chip needed a special use permit for zoning.
The City of Lima’s board of zoning adjustments granted that special use zoning permit in back in December, with some attached caveats.
But that’s when the project began to run into problems. First, Schroeder submitted plans to the city’s building department which didn’t meet the residential building code standards. After a few rounds of review, Blue Chip eventually hired a engineer that could take the job.
Not all the necessary building permits, however, were approved before Blue Chip began construction on the building.
“I mean, I don’t have a CAD program. I can almost build it as fast as I can do the drawings,” Schroeder said.
While Blue Chip Construction has been in operation since at least 2015 doing construction jobs across the county, 1414 Hazel Ave. is the first major structural build inside Lima’s city boundaries.
Public Works Director Howard Elstro explained that Ohio’s resident building code applies across the state, but enforcement methods differ between municipality. Major jobs in surrounding townships or villages, for example, still require that contractors follow the state’s building code, but there may not be enough local building inspectors to make sure new builds follow the code.
“When contractors waive from that, they’re opening themselves up for liability and making structures more dangerous for their occupants,” Elstro said.
The next problem came when Schroeder hit a neighboring gas line. According to Schroeder, the line cut diagonally across his property, and he hit it when installing a footer in the garage on his property. He called the gas company immediately to fix the issue.
“I’m to blame. I’m the one that hit it. But I don’t think there was any harm. I didn’t intend to do anything,” Schroeder said.
Meanwhile, a Hazel Avenue neighbor, Nikita Arrick came home one night to find that her heat had been turned off. Schroeder said he came by later with space heaters for the family and took extra steps to help fix an issue the gas company had with the lines.
For Arrick through, the dangerous accident was the last straw in a series of missteps from the company that included vehicles parking in her lawn, continuous noise, disruptions and disrespect.
“It used to be a home for me. My house is not a home anywhere. I don’t even go outside anymore except to go to my car,” Arrick said.
She contacted Councilors Derry Glenn and Jon Neeper, who discussed the problem Monday via teleconference during a sub-committee hearing.
Councilors took action after hearing the details. Council President John Nixon asked city officials to review any and all permits Blue Chip has filed with the city to see if any could be rejected or revoked based on poor performance.
“This is how we keep our guys busy,” Schroeder said in response. “This is how we put our guys through the winter. And I understand that there are some permit problems, but I promise you all applicable and pertinent permits have been applied for.”
“Your performance has spoken volumes,” Nixon said. “It is terrible.”
“We have work being done. An entire building is contracted that there were not the proper permits approved,” Councilor Carla Thompson said. “I find that unacceptable.”
“I’ve been in Lima since 2010, and I really do want to be a part of Lima. I’m on the board of the Young Professionals and I want to do things right. We have applied for all the permits,” Schroeder replied. “This has been a battle to try to get to where we can follow all this, but also keep our guys busy through a pandemic and through the winter.”
“You’re expecting us to believe that you followed all of your permits, you’re doing everything above board. The very first step you do before you dig is you call, and you did not do that from the start. And you expect us to believe that everything you’ve done is above board?” Neeper said.
“First of all, you’re blessed you’re not in jail right now, that the whole block didn’t blow up,” Glenn said.
Council also requested that legislation be drafted for consideration that would deny the board of adjustments special use permit. If councilors approve next Monday, Blue Chip Housing would be at square one to file all pertinent permits, including the final certificate of occupancy for 1414 Hazel Ave.
Lima’s legal department has also been tasked with working on requesting a court order that could ask for additional sanctions if Blue Chip breaks the cease-and-desist.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.