Riverview Terraces lawsuit continues
Testimony continued Friday in the lawsuit pitting the Riverview Terraces Homeowners Association against the project’s developer, architect, contractors and engineers.The homeowners association is seeking $22 million in damages. The suit also asks the defendants to adequately repair the condominiums, and seeks reimbursement for housing rental, storage and cleaning costs during repair, and for “annoyance, discomfort, inconvenience, and aggravation” resulting from the problems.Earlier in the week, developer and architect Jay Harkins admitted construction of the 12-building condominium complex was faulty. Buildings are sinking into the steep hillside on Midland Avenue and 27th Street.The association filed a lawsuit in April 2003 after residents complained about cracked walls, doors that wouldn’t close and other problems. City engineers found the buildings were sinking into the ground and had significant structural faults. The city also considered condemning some of the worst buildings and evicting residents; however, repairs were completed in 2003.In August 2003, Mesa National Bank announced it was in the process of foreclosing on the property because Harkins’ development company, Riverview Terraces LLC, defaulted on its loan. On Oct. 1, the bank bought 24 of the 25 condos on the auction block, while Harkins bought the other unit. Yet another complication was discovered by Glenwood Springs engineering firm Pattillo Associates during a structural survey of the buildings. Engineers found cracks and inadequate bracing in many of the buildings’ roof trusses. Emergency repair work commenced in November 2003. The repair plan calls for pressure grouting to lift the buildings, but that work most likely won’t be done until the lawsuit is resolved. On the stand for most of the day Friday was John Mechling, a soils engineer with CTL/Thompson of Glenwood Springs, a defendant in the suit.Mechling was questioned by homeowners association attorney Scott Sullan about a soils report he signed off on that made a series of recommendations that were not followed by the developer or the contractors. Among Mechling’s findings were that soils on the site were subject to hydrocompaction, or swelling caused by water.He recommended pier-type foundations that are grounded in gravel, as well as other foundation options. The developer chose to use a footing-type foundation that rests in the soil, as well as “slab-on-grade” floors that also rest directly on the ground and are subject to cracking when soil moves.Mechling also testified that he was aware that the site was located in a geologic hazard zone characterized by a potential for soil settling over the long term. He called for a mitigation plan as part of building construction. Mechling said he did not mention the situation in his soil report to the developer.In his report, Mechling recommended floors be built above a crawl space to allow soil movement beneath without affecting the floor itself. The developer chose to construct floors directly on the ground.Sullan also questioned Mechling about grading around the foundations of the buildings.”Surface grading is critical to the performance of the foundations,” because the buildings are in an area of hydrocompacted soils, he asked. Mechling agreed.The report recommended that fill around the foundations be graded to at least a 10 percent slope and perforated drains be installed around the buildings so water drains away in all directions.According to photographs submitted by one of the defendant’s attorneys, drains were improperly installed around at least one building, causing water to pool around the foundations.Mechling argued that CTL/Thompson was not authorized to tell the contractor how to do their job. “We cannot direct construction. We don’t do that. Our task is to provide technical information to the contractor. We assist the contractor when asked.”The jury trial will continue next week and is set to be completed on April 28.
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