Homeowners face costly maintenance

Annapolis residents must pay for siding

May 20, 2000|By Scott Calvert and Amy Oakes | Scott Calvert and Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

A couple of months ago, Nick Munz got a shocker in the mail. A notice from his homeowners association said all of the cedar siding needed replacing at the waterfront development south of Annapolis where he lives with his wife and stepdaughter.

The cost: about $16,000 per townhouse.

Last week, the number rose a bit higher. The new tab: $26,000 per townhouse at Chesapeake Harbour, or $1.7 million for all 67 units.

"If I had known what was going to happen regarding the quality of the home, obviously I would have paid less for it," said Munz, who has made the owner of his unit an offer of about $360,000 for the four-story house overlooking the marina.

This morning at 10, his neighbors are scheduled to vote whether to accept the "special assessment" at a meeting at the Eastport Volunteer Fire Department.

The townhouses, built between 1986 and 1992, are part of a larger complex with 452 units spread over 40 acres near the Chesapeake Bay. The buildings ring a man-made marina where many residents moor sailboats.

The subdivision was built by Annapolis developer Jerome J. Parks, who is seeking city approval for a project on West Street that will include 208 residences, a six-story hotel, offices and a 950-seat auditorium.

Richard W. Schmidtlein, president of the townhouse board, declined to comment on the renovation project. But a letter he sent residents prescribes an extensive overhaul that their monthly maintenance dues of $240 could not begin to cover.

"New installation and work will include -- cedar siding and wood trim, exterior sheathing, insulation board, air filtration barrier, wood soffits, soffit venting, wood rakes, pressure treated wood decking and front steps, and chimney caps," he wrote.

To help ensure a longer life for the new siding, the cedar boards will receive two coats of paint at a factory and a final coat after they are installed at Chesapeake Harbour, he wrote.

The cause of the deterioration is unclear. Some point to the weather, construction or maintenance -- or a combination.

Rick Ruhf, an architect hired by the townhouse board, says it can be traced to the construction.

"There were a lot of things that were deficient the first time around in terms of the builder, how they built it, the quality of the cedar, the way they finished it -- not really up to industry standards," he said in an interview.

Specifically, he said, the cedar was not treated on all sides, making it vulnerable to moisture. Also, he said, the cedar was not treated with a deep-penetrating stain.

When the siding was affixed to the houses, it was attached to insulation board instead of plywood sheathing -- a weaker fastening method, Ruhf said. In some places, construction workers nailed siding into insulation board rather than wood framing, he said.

"So it didn't have good anchoring," Ruhf said. "The cedar in some places has fallen off and needed to be resecured."

Parks, who turned upkeep of the houses over to the townhouse board after construction, said he is not aware of the siding issue. "I don't know anything about that," he said Thursday. "They've never come to me about it."

Privately, some residents say, Parks has nothing to do with the problems. They note that the houses -- which sell for between $300,000 and $900,000 -- apparently were built to code and inspected by the county.

Rather, they say, the townhouse board has not maintained the property as well as it should have. Munz said he believes his house has been painted once since it was built, and that was only a touch-up.

Even Ruhf said the maintenance has been lackluster.

"What they've done is taken a Band-Aid approach over the last five or 10 years," he said.

This is not the first time Chesapeake Harbour residents have been faced with costly repairs.

In 1992 they sued Parks over leaky roofs. As part of a confidential settlement, Parks and his co-defendants were freed of any future liability at the development, according to sources familiar with the case.

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