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Silver Lake School owner appealing demolition order

(photo supplied / Times-Union)

An appeal seeking to block demolition of the old Silver Lake school has been filed in court.

Seeking to reverse or modify Hearing Officer Thomas Earhart’s order to demolish the former Silver Lake Elementary School, Silver Lake Partners LLC on Saturday filed a petition for judicial review with Kosciusko County Superior Court I Judge David Cates.

On May 30, Earhart ordered the school at 202 E. Sycamore St., be demolished and gave  Silver Lake Partners 10 days to appeal. Michael Baur and his wife are the sole partners of the LLC.

The town of Silver Lake filed an order to demolish and remove the school building March 27, 2017, and a hearing was held May 16.

The petition filed Saturday describes the building as a “structurally sound example” of 1930s art deco architecture.

It claims the hearing officer’s findings and the order to demolish are “unsupported by evidence and amount to an abuse of discretion for three reasons.

The first reason is that the order almost entirely relies on a report from Calvin Bolt. “The findings imply that Bolt was representing both parties when he inspected and reported on the building. In fact, he was engaged by the town, and access was granted by SLP. The appeal claims that Bolt lacked the experience, credentials and license to inspect the property.

Bolt inspected the building twice and found that it was open to birds, had broken windows, suffered from rain damage and some parts of the building had extensive mold.

In his report, Bolt wrote, in part, “In my opinion, the building is sort of an albatross. Maybe before the roof started leaking creating all the problems inside, the gym part could have been used as a community center for the youth to play basketball. Maybe the school system should have torn it down instead of selling it. That is all hindsight now. The only thing I can think of is to turn it into apartments and that would come with a hefty seven figure amount. It would be less expensive to tear it down and build new apartments instead.”

When Silver Lake Partners LLC took ownership of the property in 2008, the plan was for a charter school to go in there, but the state turned it down twice.

Tuesday afternoon, Scott Reust, attorney for the town of Silver Lake, said, “I feel bad for Calvin Bolt that they put in there that he’s not qualified. If he’s not qualified, then I don’t know who is.”

On page 9 of Bolt’s report, provided by Reust, Bolt listed his credentials. He is a Certified Microbial Investigator by the American Counsel for Accredited Certification (Microbial Investigations and Testing for Fungi, Mold, Bacteria, Viruses, and Their Health Effects, Risk Assessments, Mold Remediation Protocol and Verification, Building Science, Building Related Symptoms, Building Related Illness, HVAC Systems, Assessments of Moisture Intrusion and More), among a list of other credentials.

Reust said in an email that Bolt is extremely qualified to give an opinion on mold hazards and well qualified to give opinions on the impaired structural condition that make it unsafe.

The appeal also argues the ruling was based on “stale” facts. It says the order fails to recognize the corrective actions and treats various previous conditions as if they were current conditions.

The third reason in the appeal contends the order is not “reasonably related” to the present condition of the premises.

Finally, the petition states that unless the order is reversed or modified, it will “unduly penalize SLP and will deny the community, and the state of Indiana, an irreplaceable resource.”