Developer Christopher Maddalone’s construction downtown caused massive flooding at the Union Inn, his insurance company has determined.
The popular downtown bar had to close briefly as water undermined a back wall and mud flowed into the basement. At one point, inn owner Joyce Fordham said a “waterfall of water” covered the wall, and mud destroyed everything in her basement, including her furnace and beer cooler. Even the sidewalk was undermined.
Fordham immediately suspected the cause was the construction project next door, at the corner of Union Street and Barrett Street. Maddalone demolished a boarded-up building there and erected townhouses.
But Maddalone denied responsibility.
Five months after the drainage problem began in January, he said he was certain his project was not at fault — even though the Union Inn had stood for 146 years without flooding.
“Our building does not adjoin or connect in any way with any nearby buildings. We closely followed all building codes and requirements in constructing our project,” he said.
Now his insurance company says otherwise — and is insisting that he fix the problem quickly.
Maddalone did not return calls seeking comment. He is seeking approval to build more townhouses at the location in question, which Fordham worries will make the problem worse.
Harleysville Preferred Insurance Company sent Maddalone a letter last week saying that a “change in topography/landscape has caused an increased amount of water runoff to occur.”
The letter went on to criticize Maddalone for not yet fixing the situation. The company warned that it would not cover the cost of additional damages since Maddalone was making no effort to stop water from flooding the inn.
He was told to install a catch basin to redirect the runoff, according to the letter.
“As of this date it appears that nothing has been done to remedy the issue,” the insurance company wrote. “This letter is to advise you that while we will provide coverage for any damages which occurred on or prior to 6/13/13, which is the date of the recommended catch basin, we will be unable to indemnify Town Homes of Union Square LLC for any damages occurring after 6/13/13.”
The company went on to write that it had ruled the flooding to be an “accident,” saying that the damage was unintentional. But, the company said, any further damage would not longer be considered accidental since Maddalone knew about it and could resolve the problem.
Fordham is hoping the letter means she will soon get help. Her business has been flooding since mid-January, and it got worse when the region was hit with heavy rain for weeks in June.
“He’s got to fix this drainage now,” she said. “He’s got me by the throat. I can fix it, but it will do me no good. It will happen again until he fixes this issue.”
She wants him to pay for business interruption as well as damage.
“Water and mud have engulfed the entire basement, destroying every piece of equipment,” she said.
She’s lost her hot water tank as well as the furnace, walk-in cooler, ice machines and inventory, she said.
She said she has not heard from Maddalone, and she has not yet gotten a check from Harleysville.
“Very slow process here,” she said. “Very, very slow.”