Wasilla-based home builder responds to revoked permit

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — "I think this is being way blown out of proportion," home builder Troy Davis of Troy Davis Construction told KTUU late Thursday afternoon.

Vacationing out of the country, Davis called to clear the air after the Municipality of Anchorage revoked a permit he was working under at a new home build in Eagle River.

KTUU first reported the situation on Wednesday after obtaining a three-page letter authored by the city explaining their decision to Davis.

The city took action after initially being called to the site by the prospective homeowner to do an earthquake damage assessment, a service the municipality is offering at no-cost as part of its response to the Nov. 30, magnitude 7.0 quake.

The earthquake caused what has been described as minor damage to the foundation. But while there, the city inspector noticed that the framing appeared to be "substantially deficient regarding structural provisions of the building codes adopted by the Municipality of Anchorage."

Acting Building Official Ross Noffsinger has said interpretation of the codes by builders may have been a matter of some confusion over the years, but that as far as he knows, residential construction standards have been consistent for all sections of the municipality, which includes Eagle River, Chugiak, and other communities outside the city's center.

Nationally recognized minimum building standards must be followed, in addition to heightened requirements mandated by the municipality, including designs able to withstand earthquakes and high winds.

Some of the varied opinions about code compliance may have developed because of the way compliance is monitored. In the Anchorage bowl, the city requires builders to obtain building permits and have municipal plan reviews and inspections. Outside the Anchorage Bowl, builders are allowed to hire a private inspector to fulfill that role.

Since starting his company in Alaska in 2001, Davis said he's built about 600 homes.

"To say our building system was inadequate and cheap and all that kind of stuff that's being said is totally inaccurate," he said. "We do a lot of extra structural framing in our homes to ensure that we don't have that kind of problem."

"Do we have a problem with one? Yes. Are we standing there fixing it? We are there fixing it. That's the long and short of it," he said regarding the house seven miles up the Eagle River valley from the Glenn Highway inspected Dec. 18 by the municipality.

He says he's brought in a structural engineer to address the municipality's concerns. The house in question and any others under construction will be retrofitted to meet the engineer's recommendations, Davis said.

Davis also said he is unaware of significant damage to any of the homes he's built from the earthquake.

"Everything withstood, I thought, very well. Do we need to change some things? Yes," he said.

Now that his company understands that the same seismic standards that apply in Anchorage also apply throughout the entire municipality, including Eagle River and Chugiak, Davis said that's the standard they'll build to.

He also emphasized that although the building site with the revoked permit is a complicated one. From the start, Davis says he had a soil engineer on the job come up with design that would work on the lot. The fact that it suffered only minor foundation damage is proof, he said, that it's well constructed.

The letter revoking the land use permit for the site lists concerns with shear walls (the walls that help a building resist forces), the number of holdown anchors and straps, and a large wall of windows.

"You know the muni has a job to do. Again, their job is to ensure the safety of everybody and that's what they're trying to do. Our job is once we're aware of something we need to correct and make sure that it goes forward so we won't have any problems. And that's what we're doing," Davis said. "All of our new homes going forward will have those requirements."