Disgraceful: Charitable Effort by Homes for Our Troops Blocked, Neighborhood Association Denies Home to Injured Vet Because Planned Georgia Home Is “Too Small” (video)
Posted By Vicki McClure Davidson on June 23, 2011
What started out as a feel-good charitable effort, a commendable outreach by Homes for Our Troops to provide severely injured military veteran Army Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens and his family a new home in Georgia has devolved into a nightmare.
After four months of coordination, a neighborhood association’s assessment is suddenly blocking the plans to build the 2,700-square-foot home, denouncing it as “too small.” Reportedly, neighbors in the area now feel the small house would bring their property values down — the house for the Gittens family must be 3,400-square-feet and multi-level for them to even consider approving it, they now say.
Bring property values down because 2,700 square feet is “too small”? Have these chuckleheads read the news lately about the American housing market, especially in Nevada or California? As someone who lives in a home that is decidedly much smaller than 2,700 square feet, I am appalled by this blocking.
Reported by The Augusta Chronicle, Neighbors pull plug on injured vet’s home:
An Evans neighborhood association has blocked a group that was prepared to build a home free of charge for a local veteran who was injured in Afghanistan.
The homebuilding group, Homes for Our Troops, says Knob Hill Property Owners Association approved the home’s design June 2 but reversed its decision in a later meeting.
A member of the association, however, says the group got only a conditional approval, pending a review of its design; the neighborhood is carefully protected by building covenants, and the final design did not fit.
Homes for Our Troops — a national organization that has built or remodeled homes for more than 100 severely injured veterans — had planned to build a house for Army Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens and his family this weekend. Gittens suffered concussive head injuries while serving in Afghanistan. After he returned home, a brain aneurysm caused a stroke that left him partially paralyzed.
Homes for Our Troops worked for four months with the Knob Hill Property Owners Association to get the design approved, according to John Gonsalves, the group’s founder. But at an association meeting, members said the 2,700-square-foot home was too small and neighbors thought it would bring property values down, Gonsalves said. A cease-and-desist order was issued as the site was being prepared last week.
“We’ve done everything they’ve asked. For them to do this at the last minute is very disturbing,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a community in America that shouldn’t embrace this family after what they’ve sacrificed. No one deserves it more.”
But owners association member Tom Rogers said Homes for Our Troops did not do everything asked of it. The group did not have written approval from the association’s architectural review board, but negotiated through e-mail only.
From WDRW News, Evans neighborhood blocks Homes for Our Troops from building:
Homes for Our Troops received building permits for the project and has been working closely with the Knob Hill Board of Directors, making multiple changes to the plans for the home as requested. The written approval came from Knob Hill BOD President Rick Trump on June 2nd. Late last week, a lawyer for the POA served the contractors on site with a cease and desist letter to stop the preparation of the build site. Facing strong opposition from the Property Owners Association, the Knob Hill Board of Directors and the Property Owners Association met again on June 20th, just four days before the planned kickoff of the home build. Homes for Our Troops was then notified that the house plans do not meet the Knob Hill standards and the original approval was thus rescinded. Homes for Our Troops has now been told that it must begin anew the entire approval process and that the house needs to be at least 3,400-square-feet and multi-level to even be considered.
“Shockingly, it appears that the Knob Hill community has decided it does not want to welcome SFC Gittens and his family, as we were previously told,” said Homes for Our Troops Founder John Gonsalves. “Despite our working closely with the Knob Hill Property Owners Association over the past four months, we find ourselves in an untenable situation. We cannot afford to add 700-square-feet to the house, particularly under our special adaptive plans. And our experience in building over 100 homes dictates that severely injured veterans need a specially adapted single level home. Frankly, this late action begun by the Knob Hill Property Owners means we must suspend working on the home. The Knob Hill Property Owners Association has now assured that SFC Gittens and his family will not be able to have the home they so desperately need. We have done everything in our power to try to resolve this situation, but it appears that the community is not willing to accept this home, and SFC Gittens and his family into the community.”
The General Contractor, Green & Burdette and the hundreds of Evans, Georgia volunteers who were prepared to join the Build Brigade this Friday, June 24th are on standby and ready to mobilize when directed. For more details, please go to www.homesforourtroops.org/knobhillseangittens.
From the Homes for Our Troops website, Knob Hill Board of Directors Reverses Approval of Home for Severely Injured Veteran and Family:
Homes for Our Troops, the national organization which has helped rebuild the lives of over 100 of our most severely injured veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, through the gift of a specially- adapted home, has announced that the Board of Directors of the Knob Hill Property Owners Association in Evans, Georgia has reversed the prior approval by the Association’s President of the size and design of a specially adapted home for SFC Sean Gittens and his family. Building on the 2700 square foot home was to begin this Friday. Homes for Our Troops purchased the land in December and preparations for building the home have been ongoing over the past month. These homes are a reflection of the gratitude of the community and are given mortgage free to the veterans once complete.
This Home for Our Troops video with SFC Gittens’ family was created in December 2010 — so much has happened since then.
SFC Sean Gittens
Update, June 24, reported at WRDW News, from Homes for Our Troops President and Founder John Gonsalves:
Homes for Our Troops has attempted good faith negotiating with the Association since we purchased land in their subdivision last December. We went to significant lengths to satisfy conditions imposed on the build to gain approval, and were completely surprised by the reversal of approval four days before construction was to begin on the home. It is clear from communications we have received from residents in Knob Hill that the position their Board of Directors took is not shared by all the home owners, and we know there are many good people who live in Knob Hill who are happy to have the Gittens family as neighbors.
Homes for Our Troops would like to clear up several misstatements of fact about the situation:
The home fully complies with the Association’s covenants. We build 2,700 square foot homes across the country and give them mortgage free to severely injured veterans. Our home is the same size as a number of other homes in this subdivision and meets the minimum 2,700 square footage specifications listed in other Association documents.
The siding for our planned home is brick, as requested by the association and in keeping with the requirements of the neighborhood. The brick and other materials were part of the drawings approved by the Association’s President.
We have responded to every request made by the Board of Directors and if the Gittens family wishes to pursue having this home built in Knob Hill, we will continue to do so as long as requests are fair and just and made in good faith.
This home for SFC Gittens and his family was approved by email on June 2 by Knob Hill Home Owners Association president Rick Trump. This decision was subsequently reversed around June 9-10 for vague reasons. And this past Monday, four days before we were to begin construction, we were told that our plans were not accepted and that we would have to start the approval process from the beginning. We find this questionable given the numerous adaptations we have made to our plans over the last few months and the size of existing homes in the subdivision.
Homes for Our Troops has built and launched construction on over 100 specially adapted homes for severely injured veterans in over 30 states. We understand how to build a home for a severely injured veteran and know what it takes to marry these requirements with the needs of a local community. We are grateful for the many general contractors, homeowners associations and patriotic neighbors in communities across this country who have not only accepted these severely injured veterans and their families, but have welcomed them with open arms.