Sarasota Condo Achieves a Fortified First

Letters

I am the president of a downtown Sarasota condominium that has just become the first condominium in Florida to pass the State's newly-mandated Phase One Milestone Inspection for structural inspection of older condominiums.

That’s right — the new law was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 26 and went into effect immediately, requiring all condominiums of "three stories or higher in height” that are older than 25 years and within three miles of the coast (or older than 30 years) to complete a Phase One Milestone Inspection by December 31, 2024 and every 10 years thereafter. And as the attached report from Karins Engineering Group dated June 3 indicates, the Frances Carlton Condominium (on North Palm Avenue in Sarasota) has passed just such a Phase One Milestone Inspection as conducted by them. And as a result, no Phase Two inspection is required. We are set for another 10 years.

Being three stories high, the Frances Carlton just meets the minimum height requirement for the newly mandated structural inspection — but having been built in 1924, this historic building (on the National Register of Historic Places) is 98 years old and thus far in excess of the minimum age requirement for coverage by the new law.

So how were we able to respond to the new law so quickly? By a combination of foresight and coincidental timing. Last year, right after the tragic condo collapse in Surfside (the one-year anniversary of which is this coming Friday, June 24), there was a lot of news reporting about the likelihood of a new state law requiring structural evaluations of all older condominiums. The Board of Directors of the Frances Carlton felt that when this happened, there would be a scramble by all affected condominiums to hire structural engineering firms, which is in fact why the new law’s deadline is the end of 2024, and that we might well have difficulty in finding one to work with us. So we jumped the gun, and started looking last year and were very fortunate to sign up a major, highly-regarded structural engineering firm, Karins Engineering Group.

But by the end of last year, the Legislature had not yet acted on this and had no specific requirements in place. So earlier this year, we had Karins go ahead and start the structural evaluation of our building anyway — something we felt would then give us a running start if and when a new law went into effect, and would also be just a good thing to have for a 98-year-old building, regardless of any legal requirement. 

Karins started inspecting various aspects of our building and reviewing related documentation and previous contractor reports — and then in late May, the Legislature suddenly acted to pass the new law and put it into effect immediately. Karins then had the legal specifications for what can be formally designated as a Phase One Milestone Inspection and the required contents of the report. It conducted its final site inspections at that point, and then issued its report stating that our building passed — the new law requires a specific finding of “no signs of substantial structural deterioration”. 

More specifically, look at the Summary of the report, on page 15. The key findings are: 

  • “Frances Carlton does not appear to have any substantial structural deterioration.”
  • “This report meets the requirements of a Phase 1 inspection.”
  • “Frances Carlton currently does not require an additional more intensive Phase 2 inspection.”

The Washington Post indicated “the state does not have enough structural engineers to handle the workload required to make sure all the state’s high-rise condominiums are safe. . . . There’s a high demand for them on new construction alone.” But fortunately for the Frances Carlton Condominium, that’s something we won’t have to worry about for another 10 years.

And thus my conviction that Sarasota’s historic Frances Carlton Condominium is surely the first condominium in the entire State of Florida to have taken and passed the newly mandated requirement for this type of structural inspection.

John Mercer is president of the Frances Carlton Condominium Association.

 

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