Concrete wall collapses onto homeowners' property

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:42

After the town built a retaining wall, a rain storm tears it down, By Tom Hoffman LAFAYETTE — Herb and Karen Wreden were spending a quiet Saturday night at home when they heard a loud crash around 11 p.m. on May 16. “We thought it was a tree that came down,” said Karen Wreden. Instead, what they discovered the following morning after a storm had passed was that a 90-foot section of a concrete retaining wall that Lafayette Township began building along their property in late 2007 had collapsed. The collapse sent six-foot sections of 3,000-pound slabs of concrete tumbling onto their property. After The Wredens notified the New Jersey State Police, Lafayette Township workers came to the section of Dennis Road where the collapse had occurred and laid out bright orange barrels along the edge of the road to alert drivers. The Wredens have been at odds with Lafayette Township officials since the town installed the wall and storm drains near their property beginning in November 2007. Since then, the couple has complained to town and county officials that the town’s efforts to reroute rainwater to prevent storms from washing out sections of Dennis Road have made their horse farm vulnerable to erosion and flooding. They feel their complaints have fallen on deaf ears. “They (Lafayette Township officials) don’t realize that they’ve wrecked our property and destroyed its value,” said Karen Wreden. Fortunately, the concrete slabs that tumbled onto the Wredens’ property following about an inch of rain didn’t injure anyone or cause any significant damage. Still, the Wredens were visibly upset by the experience, in part because those concrete slabs didn’t appear to have been anchored in any way along the steep slope. “I was working under the wall at 4 o’clock the day it collapsed to pull some weeds and check on some forsythia bushes I had planted,” said Karen Wreden. “I could’ve been killed. You can see this wall isn’t built to code at all,” she added. Town plans to repair John D’Angeli, a Lafayette Township Committee member who oversees the town’s road department, said that Lafayette’s town engineer is working on a repair plan for the retaining wall. D’Angeli said he wasn’t sure when that plan would be completed. AnnaRose Fedish, Lafayette Township’s Municipal Clerk and Registrar, placed the original construction costs for the retaining wall at $63,741. She said she wasn’t sure how much of the construction costs were covered by grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Wredens, who filed a tort claim against Lafayette Township in late 2007 regarding the construction of the wall along their property, said they’re exploring a possible lawsuit against the town. George Sweeny, the Wredens’ Sparta-based attorney, didn’t return a phone call from The Advertiser-News prior to the publication of this story. In the meantime, Karen Wreden remains hopping mad about the situation