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Posted: 07/02/14

Octagon House mulls over
safety violations

Observer Staff Writer
      Washington Township and representatives from the Octagon House have yet to agree on how to handle building code violations.
       The township has been in communication with the Octagon House, located on Van Dyke north of 26 Mile Road, since October about fire and building code violations regarding its barn venue. Supervisor Dan O'Leary said the Octagon House should not be used for events until they meet these safety standards.
       "We want these people to do good things, we want them to bring people into our town, we want them to do so within the law and to do so safely and considerately of their neighbors," he said.
       The Octagon House's barn, built in the late 1960s, is used for weddings, showers, graduation parties and other events as a revenue generator for the non-profit. Since the 5,230 square-foot structure isn't heated, the majority of the events are held in the summer.
       O'Leary said he and the township attorney recently met with representatives from the Octagon House to determine what the latter could do to be in compliance.
       "We've explained to them the means in which they could in the short term hold events outside of the barn on their property," he said. "We've also explained to them what the long-term fixes are to make sure they could hold events in the barn if that is what they want to do."
       O'Leary said he was disappointed in the Octagon House's response thus far. He said customers have reported that the Octagon House is being threatened by him and the township to shut them down or have deputies raid and lock up the barn, neither of which he said were true.
       "If you can't follow the law you may as well create public panic with your customers to see if you can create some political pressure," he said. "Follow the damn law, that's the way we do things here."
       Susi DiPace, president of the Friends of the Octagon House board, said they have had to turn away customers and cancel some events due to the safety issues.
       "We can no longer hold them in the barn," she said.
       She said the Octagon House board was made aware of several items that it needs to comply with, including fire and building codes. She said, though, that the non-profit doesn't have the money for the fixes at this time.
       "We've talked to an architect, quite a few people, and we're trying to brainstorm and problem-solve," she said.
       She said the board is considering other alternatives for holding events, but hopes it can work with the township to resolve the matter soon.
       Restoration efforts the Octagon House has previously identified include repairing cinder block walls, re-grading the perimeter, replacing dormers, windows, floor boards and wall panels. They also include updating and installing electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling systems.
       O'Leary said the township also approached a barn on Van Dyke near the Campground Road curve about hosting events. He said after talking with the owner, they will not operate weddings or other events anymore, but might hold certain events through temporary means such as tents.
       "We're happy to do that so long as they follow the rules," he said. "The same offer was made to the Octagon House."

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