Holmes Beach rental building voluntarily evacuated due to crack below balcony

Manatee County

HOLMES BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) — A rental building in Manatee County is under a voluntary evacuation after city officials say a repairman working on the property heard a popping noise.

City officials say the four-until rental building on 6th Avenue in Holmes Beach has a crack below one of the balconies. The property remained taped off Monday afternoon.

Holmes Beach Building Official Neal Schwartz told WFLA the city became aware of an issue around noon on Friday.

“I got a call from our code officer and she specified to me that she got a call that someone that was doing some routine maintenance on this building air conditioning heard a pop,” Schwartz explained.

The maintenance worker then went into the backyard and, according to Schwartz, “saw a spalling on the first living level above the parking garage that had separated from the building.” That’s when he called the property manager, who then got in touch with code enforcement officers.

City officials then did an inspection around the building. In addition to some minor cracks in the stucco, Schwartz says they found a “much, much larger” issue with the balconies on the building.

“Right now, the problem is with the balconies,” he said. “Now we also did a walk-through of the two exterior stairs and the cat walk which is also wood. We saw some aging, we saw some blocking where they removed some of the wood, or some of the wood was – I’m not going to use the word rotting – but soft, so they blocked under it just to make it look or feel better. Technically, you would still need to get a permit for that, but it was very minor.”

Schwartz said they also noticed one edge of a supporting beam was cracked, causing some of the deck to lean a bit.

“Not that it was going to come apart, but we just wanted to be absolutely sure,” he explained. “So what we talked with the owners and the condo association president was that when the structural engineer is out there, why doesn’t he or she go ahead and look at the substructure of the stairs and the cat walk just to be absolutely sure.”

Schwartz confirms that, given the condition, there was a risk of potential collapse.

“When we say the word potentially – we see something, it is not the norm,” he said. “We don’t do any structural inspection, so it is up to a structural engineer to do a forensic inspection to see why it’s separated from the building and what is causing that.”

He told 8 On Your Side that, especially in the wake of the tragic building collapse in South Florida, city officials just want everyone to be safe.

“We saw what the worst possibility will happen in Surfside and nobody wants to see that happen again,” Schwartz said. “This by no means is anything like Surfside. This is just us doing our due diligence to make sure this is safe and that is what we are doing.”

The building in question is a vacation rental building with four units. When building officials inspected it on Friday, they told the renters it would be best to voluntarily leave. Schwartz says they both decided to do that. He’s not sure when they will be allowed back in.

“That is based on the structural engineer. How soon they can get out there and the report they submit to us,” he said.

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