By MAUREEN L. CAWLEY
THE WILDWOODS – The Department of Community Affairs (DCA) has notified the Joint Construction of the Wildwoods (JCOW) about a classification problem that exists on at least 79 addresses in Wildwood and North Wildwood.
In a letter, dated Sept. 1, addressed to incoming Construction Official Mario Zaccaria, DCA Construction Official John Dotoli said that “the problem is significant and will require close and immediate attention.”
The letter states the multifamily units were classified by JCOW to be one- or two-family units, and as a result, they were built without the fire suppression system required by the International Building Code and BOCA building code.
DCA spokesman E.J. Miranda said the agency’s Office of Regulatory Affairs had started looking into the issue in April, as the result of a homeowner’s complaint, regarding a housing warranty.
“We determined at that time that there may be properties in Wildwood and North Wildwood that were incorrectly classified,” Miranda said. This would effect which construction codes would apply to the properties.
“In spot checking several sets of plans from the above listed structures, it appears that other code violations exist,” Dotoli wrote.
“The list I provided to you should not be viewed as all-inclusive considering that only a cursory assessment of the Wildwood housing stock was made,” he wrote.
Dotoli wrote that the letter was a summary of a meeting with Zaccaria on Sept. 1, the day after retiring construction official Mike Preston left office.
The letter requested that Zaccaria “re-review” the properties on the list “for any life safety issues, which may have been overlooked i.e. remoteness of exits, suppression system, unprotected balconies, continuity of firewalls, appropriate fire-rated assemblies and barrier-free compliance, contingent upon the base-flood elevation.”
Dotoli directs Zaccarria to consider the properties as R-2 multifamily structures “regardless of the use classification your office originally deemed the building to be.”
The “rereview” promises to put additional strain on JCOW’s already taxed resources.
“We are fully aware of this task will require a sizable number of ‘man-hours,’ and it may strain the status quo of your staff,” Dotoli writes. “However…we consider this a high priority requiring the immediate attention of you and your staff.”
Before meeting with Dotoli, Zaccaria had appealed to the JCOW board for more staff and new plumbing, electrical and fire and building code inspectors were hired at the beginning of the month.
A staffing report and a record of the inspection activity in the office from 2004-2005.accompanied the letter from the DCA.
According to that report, JCOW processed 337 new construction permits, 204 permits for additions and major alterations, 842, permits for minor alterations and 281 demolition permits over the past 12 months.
The DCA anticipates that the office will perform 4,680 building inspections, 2,266 electrical inspections, 90 fire protection inspections and 1,094 plumbing inspections in 2005. In addition they estimate that the office will need to do an additional 900 inspections because of the “classification issues” and possible violations.
The report also notes that when construction of the two “25-story” buildings approved by Wildwood’s zoning board begins, the agency will need to hire an additional full-time building inspector and a full-time office person to handle the additional workload.
Mario Zaccaria could not be reached before press time. JCOW board secretary Deborah McNeill said that the board’s discussion on the classification matter was discussed in a closed executive session. Closed executive sessions are allowed by law on matters of potential litigation, contract disputes, personnel matters and land sale negotiations. Tapes of the public portion of Friday’s meeting were made available on Tuesday morning.
Miranda said that the DCA will continue to monitor the situation.