To the Editor: 

The fire inspector for the Township of Nutley completed an inspection for the town and the state for the property located at 307-309 Franklin Ave. formerly the “bike shop” building. Both were completed on the same day, July 22, 2014, by the same inspector.

 

The town’s report shows a serious fire code violation for the property located at 307-309 Franklin Ave., yet the state report shows no such violation. How is that possible?  That 5:70 fire code violation required the owner of the building to install a central alarm system to his building by 8/25/14 or face a fine of up to $5000/day, (the highest fine possible).

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 I requested the full file for this property from code enforcement including but not limited to all inspections, violations, abatements, and certificates of occupancy. Also any open and closed permits. There are no letters from the property owner requesting an extension nor is there any documentation in the file granting an extension for the abatements. And yet for over two years no abatement was done by the property owner, no fines were levied and a temporary certificate of occupancy was granted on 10/27/2016, (four months after the town bought the building). Why was there no enforcement of this violation? How can a temporary certificate of occupancy be granted to a building with a 5:70 fire code violation? Why does this certificate have the previous owner of the building listed as the owner on the certificate and not the current owner?

The town was in negotiations with the property owner to purchase this property. The property owner’s attorney wrote to the town’s law firm on 2/25/2016 specifically stating that the property was to be sold “in  “AS IS” condition and that the seller is not going to have installed the fire alarm as required by the town.”

The town’s law firm wrote to Commissioner Evans the very next day enclosing that letter and specifically drawing his attention to the fire code violation. And still no abatement, no fines and no letters requesting or granting extensions.  Why didn’t Commissioner Evans, who is in charge of code enforcement, have the owner of the building install the required fire alarm system?

The town closed on this property on 6/27/2016 without a certificate of occupancy being issued and without the fire code violations being abated. They had the previous owner place $3,544 in escrow at closing to install a central fire alarm system in the basement. I received the OPRA’ed information from code enforcement on 4/27/17. The very next day a construction application was filed, on 5/3/17 an”alteration? “  for $4000 was filed, on 5/4/17 an electrical inspection and fire inspection were done and both passed. If I hadn’t found out about this serious fire code violation would the town have ever installed the required central fire alarm system? And if it wasn’t an issue why did they rush to get it installed once the information was known?

 For close to three years the town knew about this fire code violation in a building in which four families were living and two business’ were in occupancy and they did nothing to enforce the code violation or abate it until I requested the file. Why is that? How were citizens allowed to remain in this unsafe building? Why weren’t they notified of the unsafe condition of the building? How many other citizens are at risk in buildings with unabated fire code violations? Was this a case of acquiring a building at any cost, even at the expense of the safety of Nutley citizens? Or was it just a total breakdown of our town’s government?  And why is there a refusal by our elected officials to investigate, correct and hold accountable the parties responsible?