Norwich rooming house owner appeals condemnation

Norwich — The owner of the rooming house at 41 Boswell Ave., condemned by city officials Jan. 2 for numerous violations, filed a strongly worded six-page appeal Friday, calling the city’s actions “malicious and inappropriate” and an abuse of power.

Building owner James Liang of James International LLC is seeking a public hearing by the Building Code Board of Appeals and said he plans to call former tenants and friends as witnesses to show that the city’s Jan. 2 condemnation was erroneous.

City building, health and fire department officials condemned the 12-unit rooming house Jan. 2 after receiving tenant complaints of lack of heat and other problems. According to a violation letter, written by Assistant Building Official Greg Arpin, inspectors discovered unsafe means of egress, or pathways to exit the building; broken doors; unsanitary conditions, as well as a faulty heating and water system. Arpin wrote that Fire Marshal Mark Guilot and Uncas Health District inspector David Coughlin attended the inspection and concurred with the condemnation.

Norwich Human Services provided temporary housing in local hotels for some of the 14 tenants and assisted with relocation costs, which will be billed to the building owner.

In his appeal, Liang said he recently spent almost $10,000 on a new boiler for the building and said the contractor failed to replace the nonworking auto water feeder from the previous boiler and did not replace radiators. Liang said inspectors approved the boiler installation despite the “obvious poor job.”

Liang said Guilot attributed the lack of heat to broken pipes in the basement during a Jan. 8 inspection a week after the condemnation. But Liang said Arpin told the media the lack of heat caused the pipes to freeze and burst, a contradictory claim. He called the positions by city inspectors “a conspiracy” to cover up for approving the alleged faulty boiler installation.

Liang said during the boiler inspection in November, Arpin asked him to repair front stairs, which Liang said was the only contact he had with Arpin in 2017. Yet he said Arpin told the media Jan. 3 that he had battled with the landlord for several months.

“Why did he tell this big lie to media and general public?” Liang wrote in his appeal. “He intended to vilify me as an irresponsible landlord, and to justify his malicious condemnation. This is also part of his conspiracy.”

Arpin said he read the six-page appeal late Friday and said he was “shocked” at the allegations. He called the condemnation “solid” with the backing of health and fire inspectors.

“I was kind of shocked by him thinking that I was so evil of a person, when I was just trying to protect the people who were living there,” Arpin said.

Liang also wrote that the list of repairs necessary to re-occupy the building included doors and lack of fire alarm testing records, but argued that all damaged and missing doors were repaired or replaced in June, and that Early Warning Safety System Inc. did a fire alarm inspection in May.

“This condemnation is obviously a conspiracy,” Liang wrote in the appeal. “As the victim of this conspiracy, I strongly request the Board of Appeals, FBI, Connecticut (District Attorney)’s office and Attorney General’s Office to conduct a thorough investigation on this conspiracy."

The Building Code Board of Appeals generally meets on the fourth Tuesday of the month on an as-needed basis. Liang’s appeal has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

c.bessette@theday.com

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