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Developer Dilip Patel Issued Criminal Summons Over Alleged State Building Codes,
Claims Chinese-Made Drywall Used in Chesapeake Hotel Project


By Mike Saewitz, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jun. 2, 2009--CHESAPEAKE -- Chinese-made drywall was being used to build a new Comfort Inn & Suites hotel near the corner of South Military Highway and North George Washington Highway, Chesapeake officials said Monday.

The city has issued a criminal summons to the hotel's developer, Dilip Patel, alleging he violated state building codes, according to records obtained from the city. The case could end up in court June 24 unless Patel takes the drywall out before then or produces tests that show it is acceptable, officials say.

"We want the drywall removed," said Jay Tate, the interim director of Chesapeake's Department of Development and Permits.

City officials said this appears to be the first local instance where the city has discovered the Chinese drywall during the construction of a commercial project.

Patel said Monday that he is still learning about the drywall and would remove it if tests showed there was something wrong with it. He said he was unsure how much of the drywall he used.

"We didn't use it in the whole building," Patel said.

Tate said it was used on at least two floors.

In May, Norfolk officials voted to make illegal the use of Chinese-made drywall in the construction or renovation of any buildings in the city. A Virginia Beach councilman has asked his board to ban the drywall as well. The Chesapeake City Council has not considered such an action.

The issue has gained national attention. Virginia Sen. Mark Warner in late May urged federal agencies to move swiftly to determine if the drywall poses any health risks.

Executives with Norfolk-based Venture Supply Inc. said they sold Chinese drywall to Hampton Roads builders and installers between March 2006 and December 2008.

At least 50 homes in Chesapeake are suspected of having Chinese drywall that some homeowners have maintained emits a sulfur-based gas that corrodes household electrical systems and causes minor respiratory problems.

The drywall has been found in homes in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg and northeastern North Carolina.

Sam Porter, head of Venture Supply, said Monday that he sold some of the drywall for the Comfort Inn project in Chesapeake. But he is not sure when he sold the wallboard or how much.

The Comfort Inn is being built in the 3300 block of S. Military H w y., next door to another hotel run by Patel, the Sunset Manor Motel.

The city discovered the Comfort Inn project was using Chinese drywall on March 26 during a normal inspection, Tate said. Because this had become such a national issue, Tate said the city already had a heightened sense of the use of imported wallboard, he said.

Chesapeake is using a Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development letter that informed officials they have the authority to disallow the use of non listed or non certified drywall products, city documents show. A formal notice of violation issued to Patel May 5 said the product was not approved for use and must be removed within 30 days unless product testing information was provided by the architect, documents show.

The criminal summons was issued to Patel on May 14 for the building code violation, according to a May 15 city memo. Tate said any violation of the code could result in a misdemeanor charge.

If Patel removes the drywall or shows information that it is acceptable before the June 24 court date, the summons could be voided, according to the memo.

Pilot writer Josh Brown contributed to this story.

Mike Saewitz, (757) 222-5207, mike.saewitz@pilotonline.com

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Copyright (c) 2009, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.

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