Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pearland fire marshal closes antique center

By John Tompkins
The Facts
Published February 18, 2009

PEARLAND — Officials closed down an antique market off Highway 35 after reporting the complex had 2,800 fire code violations, including lack of adequate sprinklers, alarms and exits.

“We have to put a higher value on human life,” Pearland Fire Marshal Roland Garcia said. “We have a moral obligation to do this.”

The city issued the notice of violation Sunday to Cole’s Antique Village and Flea Market, a 300,000 square-foot facility in the 1000 block of North Main Street in Pearland.

The owner did not return phone calls seeking comment Monday. The market’s Web site reports that 15,000 to 25,000 people visit the market on weekends.

Officials issued 15 health and safety code violations to the owner that carry up to $2,000 in fines for each charge, Pearland Deputy Fire Marshal Shohn Davison said.

“There are tickets pending in municipal court,” Davison said.

Garcia said owners have to update the entire facility to meet fire codes before it can open its doors again.

City officials have tried to get an accurate picture of the facility’s standing for five years, but because vendors often lock up the 1,300 slots at the facility, it was hard to research possible violations, Garcia said.

“I could never get in all the tenant spaces,” he said.

In December, Garcia obtained a warrant to go through all of the tenant spots, he said. After inspecting the locale for five days, inspectors found exits that were locked up, an inadequate fire alarm and sprinkler system and a lack of access for fire trucks in the event the facility ever caught fire, Garcia said.

In one part of the facility, Garcia said he found a 78,000-square-foot pavilion that had only two exits.

Another big surprise inspectors found was restaurants inside the market the city did not previously know about, Garcia said.

“And they’re all operated by propane,” he said.

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