By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport City Administrator Marsha Hall said the physical condition of the city’s “Tin Man” water tower had nothing to do with the disruption of a residential real estate deal on Front Street.
“Per my discussions with the FHA lender, it was not an issue of safety or with the structural integrity of the tower, it was an issue with the distance the tower might fall,” said Hall. “It was purely an issue with the fall zone.”
Jacqueline Papai, who owns a Front Street home near the 77-year-old, 100,000 gallon water tower, had received an offer from someone to buy her house contingent upon an FHA appraisal.
Realtor Marylee Bendig said buyers were approved for FHA financing pending the appraisal.
“The appraisal came in fine, but the appraiser noted the water tower was in the ‘fall line’ of my client’s house and that further assessment was needed to see if the house is within the engineered collapse zone,” said Bendig.
Bendig said the lender would not insure unless the appraiser removed a notation about the water tower from his appraisal. She alleged, because a letter provided by the city did not address the structural integrity of the tower, the appraiser would not remove his notation about the water tower from his report, which prevented the potential buyer from obtaining FHA financing.
“She (Papai) can’t sell her home now,” Bendig alleged.
Papai, who had planned to sell the house and then retire out of state, told Groveport City Council on Aug. 12 that she was “stunned by the whole mess.”
Hall said she first heard about Papai’s situation from the city’s building official Stephen Moore.
“I was never asked by the property owner or the realtor to provide any documentation,” said Hall.
Hall said the city offered the FHA a copy of a May 2012 inspection report of the water tower by Caldwell Tanks, Inc., which does not mention any issues with the structural integrity of the water tower.
“But the lender said they did not need the inspection report because it was not an issue of structural integrity,” said Hall.
In a letter to appraisers dated July 25, Hall stated the city has approved water-related improvements (including the construction of a new water plant expected in 2014) which affect the continued use of the water tower. She noted that, once the new water plant opens, the water tower near Blacklick Street would be demolished. Until then the water tower must still be used to meet Ohio EPA requirements.
“We thought we were doing everything in our power to help the homeowner,” said Hall. “We were trying to help.”
Hall said the water tower is 134 feet tall and the house in question is 126 feet away from the base of the tower. She said the lender told her that, if the tower would fall, it would bounce, so any property would need to be 170 feet away from the tower to be eligible for FHA financing.
Hall noted water towers are not specifically listed in the FHA’s eligibility language regarding fall zones while electric or cell phone towers are mentioned. She said the FHA would not finance any loans for properties within 170 feet of the water tower or any other man made tower within that range.
“It’s an FHA issue, not a conventional loan issue,” said Hall.
Groveport City Assistant Administrator Jeff Green said the “Tin Man” water tower is full of water and is still used.
“Our first duty is to provide adequate water pressure to ensure fire protection,” said Green. “We have been given no indication that the water tower is unsafe.”
Green said the city, which has another water tower it uses along South Hamilton Road, plans to obtain a pressure reduction valve for its Columbus water connection in order to maintain two water sources before the “Tin Man” water tower can be taken down.