Bank sues Norristown over condos
The Rittenhouse Club, a 26-unit condominium project in Norristown, was so shoddily built that it was deemed unsafe for human habitation. The fallout from the project has included criminal charges against the developer and a court order in 2010 requiring Norristown to itself fix up the buildings — at a taxpayer cost of more than $1 million so far.
The Rittenhouse Club, a 26-unit condominium project in Norristown, was so shoddily built that it was deemed unsafe for human habitation.
The fallout from the project has included criminal charges against the developer and a court order in 2010 requiring Norristown to itself fix up the buildings — at a taxpayer cost of more than $1 million so far.
Now comes a lawsuit by Customers Bank of Phoenixville demanding that Norristown, and some of its current and former officials, repay money it lost when mortgages went bad.
The suit in U.S. District Court says the municipality should be held accountable for the project's failure because it did not properly oversee the job.
An independent report two years ago found that Norristown, at the time of construction, lacked any certified inspectors or a building-code official, and permitted a secretary to sign the building permit. The fire-suppression plan was not properly reviewed, and inspections were not performed.
The result was a condominium complex — aimed at professionals, with units priced at $200,000 — that had wooden fire escapes, concrete without steel-reinforcement rods, and other deficiencies, according to Charles D. Mandracchia, the bank's lawyer.
Plaintiffs in the suit, filed Friday, include several of the condo owners.
Norristown Solicitor Sean Kilkenny, who is named as a defendant, declined to comment and referred questions to Gary Simpson, the council president.
Simpson, who was not in office during the planning or construction of the condos, said Wednesday that he believed the municipality had corrected most of the problems at the Rittenhouse Club.
"There has been over $1 million in remediation; the work is almost completed," he said.
Simpson also said that since the Rittenhouse Club matter, Norristown had corrected staffing and procedural deficiencies in managing its building code.
He declined to comment further, saying he hadn't seen the suit.
Mandracchia, in an interview, said that remediation work was far from done — and that Norristown had done a shoddy job with that, too.
"The borough hasn't completed this, and the borough is dragging their feet," he said. "Some of the units are a total disaster inside. They ripped up carpet, they ripped up countertops. They spilled paint and Spackle on the floors."
R. Bruce Fazio, the project developer, who was arrested in 2010 on a charge of allegedly risking a catastrophe, is scheduled for trial in Montgomery County Court on June 18, according to court records.
Contact Tom Infield at 610-313-8205, email@example.com, or follow @tinfield on Twitter.