Construction halted on Clemson Lofts, site not in compliance - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Construction halted on Clemson Lofts, site not in compliance

The partially constructed Clemson Lofts. (July 31, 2014/FOX Carolina) The partially constructed Clemson Lofts. (July 31, 2014/FOX Carolina)
The apartments remain unfinished as of Aug. 12. (Aug. 12, 2014/FOX Carolina) The apartments remain unfinished as of Aug. 12. (Aug. 12, 2014/FOX Carolina)
A stop work order posted at the construction site. (July 31, 2014/FOX Carolina) A stop work order posted at the construction site. (July 31, 2014/FOX Carolina)
CLEMSON, SC (FOX Carolina) -

A stop-work order is still in place on the Clemson Lofts construction site on Cochran Drive.

The City of Clemson posted the order on July 24 for the off-campus housing complex that was set to open by Aug. 1.

Clemson University's fall classes begin on Aug. 18.

The City of Clemson said on Aug. 12 that the developer is still not in compliance with the Department of Health and Environmental Control stormwater requirement.

"The lofts developer was required to submit a stormwater remediation plan to SC DHEC for approval," said Assistant City Administrator, Andy Blondeau. "DHEC has received and approved the plan. DHEC inspected the project Tuesday morning and determined it was not in compliance. The City of Clemson will allow the project to continue once the lofts executes their plan to DHEC's satisfaction and is in compliance."

In an email, the Clemson Lofts responded on Tuesday, saying, "With plan changes between our engineer and the state occurring very late in the approval process, it was not feasible for all changes to be implemented as of our walk-through pre-inspection of today."

"Further, this past weekend's severe weather heightened the difficulties in implementation over the weekend. I'm thankful for all involved in their continual work towards a solution in an expeditious, thoughtful and thorough manner and expect that to continue. Going forward, a compliance inspection is scheduled for later this week from which we hope our stop work will be lifted, and our 100+ tradesmen will then return to work to complete our apartments."

The story broke back on July 31 during a FOX Carolina investigation.

Cameras found several buildings with no roofs, and many are still just shells. The City of Clemson said the site was first notified about their failure to comply with state Department of Health and Environmental Control permits in May.

Then almost 90 days later, on July 24, the city of Clemson issued a stop-work order citing a violation of the 2012 International Property Maintenance Code, Section 507.1: Drainage discharge creating a public nuisance.

All building permits are suspended until the project complies with South Carolina DHEC's stormwater requirement.

In an email, DHEC spokesman Jim Beasley wrote, "We issued the clearing and grading permit (commonly called a storm water construction permit) and visited the site after receiving an anonymous complaint about the site."

There's concern about the runoff into nearby Lake Hartwell. DHEC said the contractor in noncompliance is GreenField Property Development, of Chambersburg, PA.

Beasley went on to write, "The discharge of sediment into the lake does not pose a threat to public health; however, there is a potential impact on aquatic life in the vicinity of the discharge. DHEC is coordinating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a remediation plan for any necessary removal of accumulated sediment."

Clemson Lofts responded to FOX Carolina's questions on Aug. 1.

In an email asking if the complex would be completed by the end of the year, Clemson Lofts replied, "Yes, even during this period, we have been continually performing site work, which stabilizes the site and reduces erosion including installing roads, sidewalks, curbing, landscaping, site cleanup/organization etc. With the DHEC newly re-engineered & stamped resubmission of the erosion plan currently under state review, we have direct guidance from the state that we should be fully back to work as early as next week. With this, we will have all leased units completed and ready for occupancy prior to the end of the year with the majority completed in the 3rd quarter."

FOX Carolina asked if the developer will refund or reimburse students some of whom have claimed the complex mislead them on the opening dates. A representative for the Lofts said in a written reply, "Firstly, we have not misled anyone. Unfortunately, construction delays are an inherent risk in any project, and all leasing activity was undertaken in good faith with the best scheduling information available at the time. It is simply inaccurate to suggest that anyone was intentionally misled." 

"To the contrary, over the past four weeks we have been in direct communications with prospective residents as it became evident that a delay would occur, and depending on individual leases we have offered a mix of solutions ranging from lease termination and a full refund to assistance with temporary lodging and rent concessions during the interval of delay. The large majority of our prospective residents have opted to honor their lease with a rental concession," the lofts continued.

When asked why they weren't in compliance with state permits in May as DHEC and the City of Clemson told FOX Carolina, the lofts responded: 

"We did and continue to have all necessary state and city permits, and we did anything but ignore state reports. The issue with the state permitted erosion plan became evident once we had a fully disturbed site which was a grading requirement based on the topography of the land. As such, the state deemed our civil engineer's design of our approved erosion plan in need of updating/redesign, but rather than a modification they required an entirely new plan to be resubmitted.

The difficulty with a full resubmission was that our engineer who designed/stamped our original approved permitted plan has moved from private practice and now currently works as an engineer for the City of Clemson, so due to the obvious lack of independence he could not assist in any redesign. Given the difficulty and resulting lag to find a new engineer to step in and assist to correct another engineers design, we in the meantime made numerous augmentations and improvements to the erosion measures on-site prior to a official redesign to best remedy the situation.

These improvements are inspected weekly for effectiveness and maintenance, and have been a vast improvement over the approved original plan. DHEC also has also inspected the site twice and noted the improvement of our actions over the original approved plan. As of 3 weeks ago, we have successfully designed a new set of plans and we have fully implemented all new recommendations from our new engineer. This work was inspected and approved by a state licensed representative as well.

As of the last week these new recommendation were completed as part of the new plans which were submitted to the state and are currently under review. All of this happened prior to any stop work order. In the past week, we have had numerous conversations concerning the DHEC approval and we look to have that early next week, but again we have not waited for the approval to implement all recommended measures on the site."

Stay with FOX Carolina News as we continue to cover this developing story.

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