News Section: Local Government
KB Homeowners Plea to BOCC for Help
BRADENTON -- At first glance, homes at the Willowbrook subdivision in Lakewood Ranch look much like many other upscale developments in east Manatee. But upon closer inspection, one sees boarded-up sections where balconies used to be, walls swollen with cracks, and – mold, mold, mold. Willowbrook residents took their desperation to the Manatee County BOCC Tuesday, asking them to 'please help us,' but they left with little hope.
Roxanne Miller was fed-up with the excuses for the mold, the swollen and cracked walls, holes in the floor, and most of all the brush-off she has been getting from the builders, the county inspectors and now the BOCC.
Since December of 2009, Miller has been crying for help. She said, "My house never should have passed inspection when it was built. There were water leaks, bare wires, no smoke alarms in the empty holes they were suppose to be in, and the floor moved when you walked on it."
Miller said not long after she moved in someone actually fell through the floor. She said she could only live there for seven months before the mold and 100 percent humidity forced her to move out.
"When I finally got someone from the county to look at the many problems, they had to leave because the mold was making them sick." Millers website
Armondo Oyola Delgado, Bill Russini, AnneDoherty, Philip and Fran Graziano, and many more were at Tuesday's BOCC meeting to get help. They had all hoped the board would step up to the plate to help them as quickly as they do to permit developments for KB Homes and others.
Willowbrook Resident Dan Koehler was also at the County Commission meeting Tuesday, complaining about the fallen balcony and the 100 percent humidity, angry that their baby was sick all of the time. "They didn't fix anything," said Koehler. "We have put all of our money in the house because their band-aid repairs didn't work. We need your help."
Over 60 Willowbrook residents have complained about the shabby and unsafe conditions, about the sickness that runs through the subdivision and the endless string of contractors KB keeps blaming the problems on.
Commissioner Donna Hayes said, "This is my district," and that she had recently heard about the problems, but residents weren't buying it. They had been complaining about the unlivable conditions for years to the building department and code enforcement.
For fear of retribution, some residents chose to talk off the record saying, '… we need the building department to help us. We don't want to anger them. They haven't been honest about our efforts to fix things here. They are trying to shed any blame, but we need them.'
KB Homes is protected by an "arbitration" clause they put in the homeowners' contracts. Arbitration forces parties on both side of a dispute to sit down with a third party that is outside the courts, but whose decision is legally binding. Those who have attempted this resolve say that it has been a forest, and believe it is a way for KB to dodge their responsibility to their product.
The seven county commissioners sat before the six television cameras and vowed to look into things, but the county attorney said that because the contractors were licensed by the state and not the county, little was able to be done. When the dozen plus residents exited the chambers, there was a somber look in their faces and they conveyed little hope much would happen.
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