Planning Board looks at ways to reinforce building
Fourth Ward Councilman Steven Smith of Smith Engineering and Architect appeared before the planning board on Tuesday to present possible solutions to concerns raised by the board in December regarding the structural integrity of a vacant block building on Harrison Street where a self storage business has been proposed.
Darrin Romeyn of DM Romeyn Civil Engineering Design, PLLC requested a special permit for the proposed business last month on behalf of property owner Beth Potter.
Plans call for 26 self storage units to be installed in 4,417 square feet of space in a 9,517 square foot building on Harrison Street owned by Potter. The building abuts a second building on the property that is currently occupied by Fastenal, a fastener supplier located at 164 Harrison St.
The building proposed for the self storage business faces an access road that leads back to the former Potter Industries building that was purchased by the Asante Sign Group earlier this year.
The board raised several concerns over the condition of the building, noting that for several years the building had a tarp roof and various materials had been stored along the exterior of the building for a number of years, including pallets that were leaned up against the walls, that could have caused damage to the block walls or weakened the overall structure as it was more directly exposed to rainwater and the elements.
The board also pointed to another block building that previously stood on the property that suffered from serious structural issues. That building no longer exists.
Romeyn informed the board that Potter had contracted roofers who were in the process of completely replacing the building’s damaged roof and agreed to contract a third party evaluator to assess the structure at the board’s direction.
Smith provided his assessment of the structure to the board on Tuesday, noting that the building has two structural issues; one from the height of the 11 foot four inch tall block walls and the other from the wooden trusses that are supporting the building’s roof.
Smith explained that the building’s unreinforced block walls are effectively taller than they should be from an engineering standpoint to sufficiently withstand wind blowing against the building in accordance with upstate design wind loads.
“The higher the wall gets the less able it is to resist that wind, so it’s a fairly simple matter looking at the design tables for unreinforced eight inch block and looking at the height of the wall,” Smith said. “The wall is too high.”
Smith said this issue can be overcome by installing braces on the walls throughout the perimeter of the building connected to the trusses to sufficiently stabilize the walls.
Concerns regarding the building’s trusses proved more challenging, as Smith said he was unable to employ typical methods of determining the strength of the roof supports by first determining the wood grade that was originally used either through markings on the existing trusses or local records filed by contractors.
“The town of Johnstown did not have records,” Smith said “There are no grade markings on the wood, I don’t know what it is made of.”
Smith said he did not see signs of damage to the trusses, but was still trying to determine how to proceed with an analysis of the supports to ensure the roof is safe, secure and strong enough to bear the weight of any accumulating snowfall.
After Smith suggested the possibility of taking individual samples from each piece of wood to be analyzed for identification, planning board member Jonathan Kluska asked if the problem could be bypassed and resolved by installing a load bearing support system along the center of the building.
Smith looked at the plans for the storage units drawn up by Romeyn, saying that installing beams at regular intervals through the center of the building to reinforce the roof supports looked like a workable solution and noting that analyzing samples from the trusses would be costly.
Fulton County Senior Planner Sean Geraghty agreed, saying beams could reduce the stress on the roof by 25 percent and suggested that the board move forward with the application review to give Smith an opportunity to develop plans ahead of next month’s board meeting.
“How about we do that guys and in an effort to keep the process moving along we start the process of reviewing the special permit, there’s only a few issues with a few items anyway and in the meantime Steve can come up with a structural solution to the second issue,” Geraghty suggested.
The board members agreed, classifying the special permit application as a Type II action under State Environmental Quality Review, meaning the project will not cause any significant environmental impact and will not require further review.
Geraghty noted that a public hearing must be held for special permit applications and the board voted unanimously to schedule a public hearing for the proposed self storage business on Harrison Street during the next meeting on Feb. 5 at 7 p.m.