After Paradise Valley Resort Club previously protested stop-work orders on five of its structures, the nudist establishment decried another such order with mixed results during a recent Construction Board of Adjustments and Appeals meeting.
The board meets twice a year and then for other specific events like the March 31 meeting, said Planning Director Shannon Farrell.
Last month, Greg Brock, Rory Cunningham and Chris Meade were appointed to the board to serve through December 2024. Greg Scott was appointed to serve through the end of 2023, and John Lee was reappointed until the end of that year, too. Cunningham and Meade were voted chairman and vice chairman respectively.
This time, Jeff Wasserman and his lawyer, Joseph “Joey” Homans, argued against a stop-work order from Feb. 17, 2022 regarding work above a resort hot tub area.
The key issues centered around determining if ceiling and electrical work was solely cosmetic and if a building permit was necessary for work thus far or would be required in the future.
At the end of Thursday’s hearing, attending board members Cunningham, Meade and Scott voted 3-0 to deny Paradise Valley’s appeal.
Following a request for clarification from Homans, the board voted 3-0 on a motion for the resort to supply the county with a stamped-and-sealed engineering assessment of the freestanding structure above the hot tub and electrical engineers’ approved plans for a circuit. Thirdly, the resort must supply these materials to the county in order for a permit to be issued.
The hot tub is encompassed in a less-than-500-square-foot room, Wasserman said. The building around and above it is between 30 and 40 years old. Twelve years ago, he went to county planning officials with the intention of having an observation deck constructed so that members could see volleyball and pool areas while sitting out of the sun.
The resulting deck was free standing of the older building, so both structures were approved by the county.
Inside of the hot tub room, tongue-and-groove pine was used on the drop-down or tray ceiling and the walls. The ceiling’s raised part corresponds with the location of the hot tub.
Last year, Wasserman said he noticed the ceiling had some give or sway to it, and a few boards started to become undone.
He had David Kobor of Kobor Contracting Services temporarily brace it. The resort owner maintained that the hot tub room’s roof and deck above were separate from the structure with the tray ceiling and in good condition. He also said the ceiling wasn’t structural.
Then in January, he had Kobor remove the braces, cover the hot tub and empty its water. They then planned to remove the pine boards to take some weight off of the ceiling. Not long into the removal, they realized that greenboard had been used under the pine.
Wasserman described the material as “drywall for bathrooms” and added that they were aghast after seeing that three decades of moisture had made it “like talcum powder.”
They saw the older can lights and had Kobor leave them there and tack them up with nails to provide a temporary hold. The lights were screwed onto joists.
“The light fixtures go from a [GFCI] breaker to a junction box,” Wasserman said. “We were just going to go from the junction box and put a conduit around with six more LED lights from Home Depot.”
They also put up a vapor barrier with the intent of placing a more aesthetically pleasing piece of sheet metal. The thought was that they’d fix the lights on that Saturday. However, Building Inspector Keith Wilson and new County Marshal Matthew Haley showed up that Thursday, Feb. 17.
“How long was it like this for…in this state with the vapor barrier?”, Cunningham said.
Wasserman estimated that the ceiling was like this for a couple weeks with club members still using the hot tub space. The resort owner said the lights might have looked weird or bad, but not dangerous.
At the time of their visit, Wilson had been a building official for about a year and employed with the county for five years after two-plus decades as a low-voltage electrician.
Haley started in January, having spent 14 years working as a police officer and investigator.
Wilson noted that he first heard about potential hot tub area problems in July 2021, when he went to investigate a complaint about empty light sockets. Wasserman sent him pictures next week with the light fixture in place.
Haley testified that he’d first been alerted about possible construction issues via an anonymous letter in January, but until he could get more information, he closed the complaint.
After getting more details about exposed wiring, he then contacted Wilson and asked about the exact location of the hot tub area.
They drove to the resort together and went to the hot tub Wilson suspected was the impetus for the complaint. Tie back was put in place of the ceiling, and electrical wires were not in conduit and spliced, and the can lights were hanging on wire ducts above the hot tub.
The romex wiring for the lights wasn’t graded for a wet, corrosive environment like the hot tub room.
Wilson considered the circuit “beyond repair” and said it would have to be replaced. Anytime a circuit is replaced, plans have to be submitted with that.
“Not only was it a life-safety issue, but in order to fix that life safety issue, a permit was going to be pulled to remedy the situation,” Wilson said.
He added that last July, the ceiling was lower than in February 2022, and there wasn’t a way for him to know without plans how much or what parts of the structure was removed and if there was damage to the above flooring system. That was the second reason for the stop-work order in addition to life-safety concerns, Wilson said.
Haley and board member Meade shared concerns that if left unattended, there would have been no way to prevent somebody from hitting the light setup with, say, a pool crook or standing on a ladder shown in one of the pictures.
“We didn’t want members swimming in a hot tub with light fixtures that at any time could fall,” Haley said.
Wilson called Wasserman, who was out of town at the time of the visit, and said that the work above the hot tub was being shut down and required plans to be approved by the fire marshal.
A check up showed that Paradise Valley was abiding by the stop-work order.
Both Wilson, Kobor and an architect friend of Wasserman’s, Todd Washowich, made the point that permits don’t have to be issued for minor electrical things like fixing outlets, replacing lights or repairing a single breaker. Another exception would be connecting approved portable electrical equipment to permanently installed receptacles, according to the building code.
Kobor was asked if the work was being performed by a general contractor, and Kobor said he’s not working under one. There was no licensed electrician working on the lights, but Kobor maintained no electrical features were changed.
Though not the case with the current project, he’s done past permitted work through a licensed general contractor, such as with the projects from Paradise Valley’s previous stop-work orders.
When voting at the end of the appeals board meeting, Meade expressed concerns about the several months the temporary braces were up, corroding wires and the ungrounded light fixtures, saying each junction box has to be bonded with ground wire.
Based on pictures showing a lack of ground wire, he said that if a qualified individual has been working on the lights or overseeing that work, then they haven’t been making the proper decisions.
“I want qualified engineers to design this,” Meade said. “It should not be up to me or any inspector to make decisions."