NC beach condos evacuated and condemned; danger of collapse possible

CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. (WECT) — In one of the year’s busiest weeks for beach communities, condominium owners and vacation goers found themselves scrambling to find last-minute available property after a town shut down a large condo complex.

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Carolina Beach town officials condemned the Carolina Surf Condos Friday. Based off an engineering report, the complex is “in significant danger of collapsing” because of steel corrosion.

Ed Parvin, the assistant town manager for Carolina Beach, said the town is asking an engineering company to complete a scope study by July 14. The study will reveal the full extent of the damage and give a recommendation for the complex’s future.

Parvin said it is unclear if Carolina Surf Condos is in need of reinforcement work or a full demolition.

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“We had some upset renters, but there is just nothing we can do,” Jennifer Kitz, owner of Carolina Beach Realty which manages one of the units, said. “I think they will realize in the long run it is for the safety and well-being of them.”

On June 30, a letter sent to Joseph Sample of the Carolina Surf Homeowners Association from Chris Holmes P.E. & Associates, Inc. stated steel corrosion was so bad that one of the building’s columns was reduced to half its original size.

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“Inspection of newly discovered corrosion to the structural columns has revealed that the structural integrity of the entire southeast corner of the building has been completely compromised,” the letter read. “The cross-sectional area of the structural column in question has been reduced to half its size and therefore half its intended capacity.”

Holmes also noted that bolted and welded connections on floors and balconies were “entirely corroded away” and other exposed columns showed similar structural compromise because of the corrosion.

“It is the opinion of this office that the building is no longer safe to occupy without further analysis,” the letter read. “This building is in significant danger of collapse. Any residents choosing to remain in the building risk the possibility of serious injury or death.”

In a letter sent Monday from Carolina Beach Chief Building Inspector Darrell Johnson, initial requirements of the homeowner’s association are outlined, followed by the course of action that will need to take place to get the building back up to code.

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First on the list is installing a safety fence, followed by the aforementioned July 14 deadline for an engineer evaluation which will have to be submitted to the Building Inspections Department.

“This evaluation should include the structure’s ability to withstand winds which might result from a tropical storm or hurricane,” the letter read. “We would like for the engineers to be in constant contact with the town as new information becomes available to ensure we can stay in front of this situation.”

The letter went on to state that once evaluations are completed and a plan of action is provided to Carolina Beach officials, Johnson’s office will help with obtaining proper permits and making sure inspections are completed.

Until then, “The building is condemned and as such, it should remain unoccupied.”

Kitz said the property was rented out for the entire summer. Following the complex’s closure, Kitz said she called every renter to deliver the bad news.

“Thankfully we had places to move the renters with the exception of this week,” Kitz added, explaining they did not have enough time or availability to find another option for the family renting this week.

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Ray and Kim Moore make the trip to Carolina Beach for vacation every year with their extended family. It’s a tradition that’s been going strong for 12 years.

“You think you are set and you are good. Then Friday, the day you are supposed to leave, you find out it’s totally closed,” Kim Moore said, recalling their hectic week.

After last-minute searching, the Moores are now spread out in houses and apartments from Carolina Beach to Kure Beach.

“It doesn’t take the whole building to fall off, just a little piece to fall off or something like that, especially with the little kids,” Ray Moore said. “They’ve done the right thing. I know it probably hurt their pocket books, but as far as safety wise, it could have gotten a whole lot worse.”

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