Tuesday, April 22, 2008




The community has a Property & Grounds Committee that inspects and monitors all landscaping, utility and mechanical systems as well as buildings located on common areas in the Sun City Community. They are also responsible for the inspection of property and grounds pre-transfer from the Developer, to include a recommendation on the status of applicable assets to the Board and Executive Director of the Community Association.

Questions for the P&G committee:

1. Are underground pipes connecting the lagoons clogged with silt? Hint: run a camera thru them--that will tell. this service has been available for years.

2. Is it possible to achieve normal water level as shown on the plans in all lagoons, or are some of them constructed so water runs out the perimeter before water reaches the normal water level shown on the plans? Hint: take elevations--nothing new here. Picture a bowl. You want water in the bowl to be at elevation 15.0. but, if the rim of the bowl is at elevation 14.5, then, needless to say, you'll never get water in the bowl to elevation 15.0.

3. Should the lagoons have freeboard (perimeter elevations that are one foot or more above the normal water level (elevation)? This may take a little research--what is local accepted practice? what is universal "good practice"?

I'll keep you posted.
April 25, 2008
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is responsible for regulating water quality. On April 23, using the "Contact Us" feature on DHEC's website, I sent them the following:
April 23, 2008

Via “contact us” on DHEC’s website
http://www.scdhec.net/) :

I am a retired civil engineer living in Sun City Hilton Head. After an October 19, 2007 article in The Island Packet
http://www.islandpacket.com/news/local/story/57836.html) I contacted Rick McCollough and we surveyed a few lagoons in Sun City. We found: (1) elevations taken on the rims of two lagoons are 0.5 feet lower than the normal water elevations shown on the plans (2) huge amounts of silt clogging several lagoons and pipes connecting them.

My questions are:
1. Is DHEC aware that some lagoons in Sun City Hilton Head are not built according to plans?
2. Is DHEC aware that some lagoons in Sun City are filled with silt?
3. Is DHEC aware that some pipes connecting lagoons in Sun City either do not exist or are clogged with silt and nonfunctional?
4. What does DHEC intend to do about these lagoons, if anything?

As a resident of SCHH I am very concerned that we residents will be stuck with huge costs for dredging and fixing these lagoons and for correcting design and/or construction deficiencies when these costs should rightfully be borne by the developer, Pulte Homes.

I look forward to your contacting me with responses to my questions.

I haven't heard back from DHEC. I'll keep you posted.
June 16, 2008
Before you know it, it'll be a year!
This really IS "the SLOW country"!
June 19, 2008
Finally, some action!
Troubled waters: Are Sun City's lagoons polluted?
By MICHAEL WELLES SHAPIROmshapiro@islandpacket.com843-706-8142
Published Thursday, June 19, 2008
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control alleges that Pulte Homes, the developer of Sun City Hilton Head, is in violation of state pollution laws because of the condition of several lagoons in the community.

A Pulte official said Wednesday the company does not agree with the findings, but says it wants to cooperate with the state agency. Jon Cherry, a Pulte Homes spokesman, did not provide details of how that would work.

DHEC sent a letter to Pulte stating lagoons in the Aster Fields, Murray Hill and Basket Walk neighborhoods were built or maintained in ways that don't comply with state environmental laws. Pulte received the letter Wednesday.

According to the letter, DHEC staffers examined complaints from Sun City residents on four separate occasions between September 2007 and April 2008.

In the letter, DHEC says it found that:
• Eight lagoons were not built according to plans approved by the agency.
• Drains in two lagoons were not being properly maintained.
• Water from a wetland was flowing into two lagoons.
• Sediment was building up in two lagoons.

The letter also calls for a June 26 "enforcement conference" in Columbia between DHEC and Pulte.

Cherry said the company has been working with DHEC, and although it disagrees with the allegations, the company will attend the conference and continue to work toward a solution.
"We're going to do the right thing," he said. "There's some kind of conference they want us to go to, and we'll go there and work through it."

A DHEC spokeswoman said the agency doesn't comment on ongoing enforcement proceedings or possible penalties, but she did describe the enforcement process.

"Our goal is for the regulations and statutes of the state to be enforced in a way that protects the environment and the health of the public. So what we will do is offer any number of ways that a company can go to get back in compliance," said Clair Boatwright.

If DHEC and a company can't reach an agreement, Boatwright said alleged violations are taken up in court.

She said an initial conference, like the one Pulte plans to attend, is generally an opportunity to get a company's side of the story.

"They may have a viewpoint that we haven't seen," she said. "If we get a report that says somebody hasn't done something, but they have proof that they've done it, it can end right there."

The conference will be closed to the public, according to DHEC.

Lagoons are common features in developments throughout Beaufort County. They are designed to filter rainstorm runoff andare often advertised to potential home buyers as picturesque amenities.
June 23, 2008
a NATIONAL problem.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Another Beaufort County screw-up in Pulte's favor


Work at Sun City was not approved by county

Published Sunday, August 17, 2008

Three construction projects done at Sun City Hilton Head weren’t formally approved by Beaufort County until long after they were completed, cutting out any chance for public input.

An expansion of the parking lot at the Hidden Cypress golf course was completed in mid-2006 and a second project to end a road as a cul-de-sac was finished last November, according to Pulte Homes, Sun City’s developer. A third project to change the design of the Pinckney Hall parking lot to add handicapped spots and save trees was finished in late spring, according to several Sun City residents.

The county’s Development Review Team approved the three projects July 2.

Asked about the projects, Pulte division president Jon Cherry said in an e-mail that Pulte had a discussion with county officials and it was agreed that the company would go ahead with its projects and then go to the county’s Development Review Team.

But county officials say that’s not what should have happened.

“We don’t want people to do things and ask for permission afterward,” said county planning director Tony Criscitiello, a member of the development panel.

“The Brown’s Bluff property is an example of what happens,” Criscitiello added, referring to an instance where a Bluffton property owner began putting in a riprap wall — an erosion control measure — on his property without a county permit.

Unlike that situation, however, Criscitiello said the county chose not to penalize Pulte.

“It was relatively minor, so the position of the county was not as dramatically opposed to what happened,” he said.

Nevertheless, county administrator Gary Kubic said he wants to know how Pulte was allowed to move forward on projects without permits.

“No one is exempt from the permitting process,” he said. Sun City resident Steve Grossberg also has questions.

“I’ve never seen anywhere where things are built, and then an approval meeting is held,” said Grossberg, who works for a construction and design consulting firm.

Grossberg, who lives near the Hidden Cypress parking lot that was expanded, said he and several of his neighbors were upset because a road in front of the golf course clubhouse that many residents used regularly was closed to accommodate the change.

Residents were informed about the project, Grossberg said, “but everybody here thought it was being done in a legal manner — until I pointed out that it wasn’t.”

In May, Grossberg wrote to Kubic and to zoning and planning officials, pointing out the change to the road. Grossberg said he was not aware of any public meeting at which the road change was approved.

He said he was upset because the parking lot expansion added to the distance he and his neighbors had to travel every time they went in and out of the community’s gates.

Estimating that 500 homes were affected by the change, Grossberg said, “When you think about how much energy’s wasted today, somebody should have asked, ‘Does it make sense to do that?’ That’s what government bodies are supposed to do.”

A Pulte representative said the re-routing of traffic would increase public safety by taking high-speed traffic out of several residential areas and would add to the longevity of Sun City’s road system.

But Grossberg said he should have had a chance to voice his opinion.

“The standard of operation is build it, then come to the county with what they’ve built, and that doesn’t leave any opportunity for a review process or for public comment,” he said.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Local issues

Beaufort County, SC District 10 voters!
Here are some things to consider at election time:

1. I told our councilman, Jerry Stewart, about the defective roof truss connections in Sun City LONG before The Island Packet ran their stories. Why didn't Councilman Stewart follow up on my warnings, and warn YOU?

2. Arthur Cummings, Director of Beaufort County's Office of Building Code Enforcement, made false and misleading statements to the public. He was quoted in Bluffton Today as saying "a FEW bad roof truss connections" had been found, and he was quoted in The Island Packet as saying that "only 2% of the re-inspected houses needed repairs".

3. It's on Arthur Cummings "watch" that roof truss connections were not properly inspected in the first place.

4. In October 2007 Gary Kubic, Beaufort County Administrator, promised a final report on the Sun City roof truss connection problem. Arthur Cummings' answer in July 2008 is a short, two-paragraph email to The Island Packet in which he says that "only 2% of the re-inspected houses needed repairs".

Will the REAL story of the deficient roof truss connections and missing roof bracing EVER be told? Will citizens EVER get the REAL information on the County Building Code Enforcement Office's ineptness in their initial inspections, AND RE-INSPECTIONS, of our houses? Will the public ever be told that hurricane clips should be installed as these connections? Mr. Cummings? Mr. Kubic? Mr. Stewart?

5. Also in October 2007 Gary Kubic promised that an independent firm would evaluate the County Office of Building Code Enforcement for the purpose of "restoring public confidence." Only after another Island Packet story TEN MONTHS LATER, has Arthur Cummings FINALLY turned over the NEEDED records to the independent reviewer. Will the evaluation be made public? Mr. Stewart, Mr. Kubic and Mr. Cummings, IT IS YOUR DUTY NOT INTERFERE WITH THE FIRM'S EVALUATION, AND TO MAKE THIS REPORT PUBLIC.

6. A recent article in The Island Packet revealed that not all designated houses in Sun City have been re-inspected. This is more than one and one half YEARS after the County was notified of the roof truss connection problem. This is our SECOND hurricane season after the problem was discovered, and this hurricane season is VERY active.

7. Gary Kubic has failed to answer my direct questions as to what agency is responsible for assuring that retaining walls and timber bridges in private housing developments in Beaufort County are properly designed and inspected.

8. Some lagoons (ponds) in Sun City are full of silt. Trees in wetlands are dead and dying. What have Jerry Stewart and Gary Kubic done to get Pulte Homes, developer of Sun City and currently in-charge, to address these problems?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Retaining wall failure


Friday, March 14, 2008

This just happened. It’s on one of our golf courses. The wall’s failure raises some questions:

1. Whose wall is this? Pulte’s or the community’s? (Whoever owns it pays to fix it.)
2. Was this wall engineered? Are there construction drawings that are signed and sealed by a registered professional engineer? If not, why not?
3. What role did Beaufort County, SC play in approving the design and construction of this wall?
4. How many other community facilities are inadequately designed and/or constructed? Will the community do everything that it can to try to identify them?

I’ll keep you posted.

Friday March 28, 2008

Pulte has "fixed" the wall in a week. It looks like they pulled it back to vertical, fastened the panels together where they came apart, and put fill in behind the wall. But, did they "fix" the problem? Is the wall properly designed and constructed?

The Property and Grounds (P&G) Committee is a volunteer committee here that inspects and monitors all landscaping, utility and mechanical systems as well as buildings located on common areas in the Sun City Community. They are also responsible for the inspection of property and grounds pre-transfer from the Developer, to include a recommendation on the status of applicable assets to the Board and Executive Director of the Community Association.

Here’s what P&G had to say in their February meeting minutes about the retaining wall failure (apparently the failure occurred long before I saw it—they don’t let us play the back nine that often):

"Retaining Wall Tieback at 17th hole/HC. This is golf course property and NOT common area. This is a design flaw and Pulte/LD is currently preparing an engineering study. The question was raised whether or not there was a reserve established for lagoons outside of golf? Action: There are a number of different departments/committees (Golf Maintenance, Common Area Maintenance, P&G, GAC) that need to meet to review lagoon maintenance and future lagoon issues."

Is the retaining wall that failed at HC no. 17 an engineered wall? Were construction drawings, signed and sealed by a professional engineer, submitted and approved before construction? If not, why not? What was Beaufort County’s role in approving the design and construction for this wall? I've asked these questions of Beaufort County, but so far they haven't responded.

The 2006 International Building Code, adopted by South Carolina as the state’s building code, requires retaining walls (not building foundations) that are not laterally supported at the top and retain in excess of 24 inches (610 mm) of unbalanced fill to be “designed” to ensure stability against overturning, sliding, excessive foundation pressure and water uplift. It also requires retaining walls to be designed with a safety factor of 1.5 against lateral sliding and overturning. (The 2006 International Residential Code, Section R404.5)

Regarding the “engineering study” that Pulte is preparing: in the rest of the world (outside SC) it’s illegal to represent an “engineering study”, or even offer an engineering opinion (take note all you non-registered engineer building inspectors and Pulte employees who have been telling residents here that the roof truss connections are "no big deal"), unless it has been prepared and sealed by a registered professional engineer. We, as a community, need to see who prepares Pulte's “engineering study” and if they are an independent, third party, registered professional engineer.

We have a number of timber bridges around SCHH used by golfers (in their carts), bicyclists, and pedestrians. It makes one wonder. Are there signed and sealed engineering drawings for all of them? Who checked the construction? Are they safe?

I'll keep you posted.

Marrch 30, 2008

Some of my neighbors never cease to amaze me! When I found defective roof truss connections here and went to the newspaper AFTER having gone to Pulte, the Community Association Board of Directors, and Beaufort County Office of Building Code Enforcement, and getting no action, some neighbors criticized me for going to the newspaper--on a life and safety issue. Pulte, Beaufort County, and the Community Association just don't seem to believe that they're accountable to their customers and the people who they serve. I do. Odd concept, isn't it?

Now we have another life safety issue. I've asked Beaufort County if they approved the design and construction for the retaining wall and the timber bridges. So far, no answer. (There's no point in even trying to go to Pulte or the Community Association BOD. Their positions on talking to their customers and the people who they serve were made quite clear during the roof truss connection issue.)

So, here we go again! Maybe the newspaper can get answers to my questions. As far as some of my neighbors are concerned, who criticize those of us who go to the newspaper in frustration, what the heck! They just don't get it.

I'll keep you posted.

April 17, 2008

No, I haven't forgotten about you.

Pulte and Beaufort County are anything but transparent. Pulte uses the "until hell freezes over" approach, and they get away with it--they're a private company.

Beaufort County, SC uses the same approach. If you ask, they don't answer. You have to resort to going to the newspaper or filing a Freedom of Information Act request. The process is slow and tedious. It makes you want to break out into a chorus of "this is my country"!

This may take a while, but I'll keep you posted (when something happens).

April 25, 2008

Beaufort County's Office of Building Code Enforcement says that retaining walls and timber bridges aren't in their jurisdiction. Then whose jurisdiction are they? In an effort to find out, I posted the following:

April 24, 2008


NAFFA International The Building Code Discussions Group (BCDG) Building Code Discussions Group (BCDG) Building Code Topics Q & A's Bldg. Dept. issues, plan check, legal & building code adoption

In PUDs (Planned Unit Developments, which have become quite popular in recent years) some infrastructure (roads and paths, ponds, golf courses, common areas, etc.) are privately-owned, rather than publicly-owned. During construction the developer owns the private infrastructure. After development the community, i.e., private property owners in the community, assumes ownership. Needless to say, this is a huge responsibility for private property owners.

Typically, local code enforcement offices approve, inspect, and sign off on buildings. What agency typically approves, inspects and signs off on retaining walls and pedestrian timber bridges (used by golf carts and bicyclists too) that are not attached to buildings? In other words, in a State which has adopted a universal building code, what agency typically takes responsibility for approving construction plans, inspecting, and signing off (following construction) on retaining walls and timber bridges that are not attached to buildings?


A collapsed timber bridge with people on it can kill the same as a collapsed building with people in it. Here's an example of one of the many timber bridges here at SCHH:


I'll keep you posted.

JULY 22, 2008


Before you know it, it'll be a year!

This really IS "the SLOW country"!

Septemeber 4, 2009

No, I never did get an answer from Beaufort County to my questions. What government agency assures that retaining walls and timber bridges have been designed correctly? Who assures that construction plans are signed and sealed by a registered engineer? Who monitors the construction? Who “signs off” on the completed construction? (much like an occupancy permit for a new house)

I asked these questions REPEATEDLY of Gary Kubic, Beaufort County, SC Administrator, but got NO answers. Also, Gary Kubic also promised MORE THAN TWO YEARS AGO that the results of a consultant’s study on the Beaufort County Office of Building Code Enforcement would be made public. Has that happened? NO.

The answer for county government that is NOT accountable to its citizens comes in November. We need to vote OUT representatives who don’t hold county staff accountable. We need to elect representatives who KNOW that if county staff isn’t accountable to its citizens, then THEY will be voted out of office also.