Friday, April 30, 2010

Nice try, Pulte! No kewpie doll.

I must comment on the article by Ryan Rasmussen, Pulte Group, on page 12A of the 4/28 Island Packet.

1. Mr. Rasmussen’s comments defending missing hurricane clips and missing nails in Sun City roof truss connections are what I would expect from someone whose paycheck comes from Pulte Group.

2. Jon Cherry, former manager of Pulte’s SE Division, commented that substituting nails for hurricane clips “was probably a mistake”. Yes, Mr. Cherry, it was a mistake. Pulte installed hurricane clips at these connections in houses built before 2004 and after 2007. HURRICANE CLIPS—NOT NAILS--SHOULD HAVE BEEN INSTALLED in houses built in 2004, 2005, and 2006 at truss-to-truss connections in a Category 4 hurricane zone (130 mph design wind).

3. Pulte submitted to Beaufort County, and Beaufort County approved, substituting TWO 3.25-inch long nails at EACH truss-to-truss connection. Mr. Rassmussen, ANYTHING short of TWO 3.25-inch long nails, properly driven, into unsplit wood, at EVERY truss-to-truss connection is NOT in conformance with the specifications that Pulte submitted to Beaufort County as a substitute for hurricane clips.

4. Ginny Skalski, who did the original story for The Island Packet three years ago, reported that in two houses that she personally inspected that approximately TWO THIRDS of the truss-to-truss connections in BOTH HOUSES either had LESS THAN TWO NAILS or the nails were short, driven in split wood, or missed their target COMPLETELY. The redundancy that you speak about, Mr. Rusmussen, is not applicable when TWO THIRDS of the connections are defective.

Nice try, Mr. Rasmussen; but, no Kewpie doll.

BTW, the editorial above Mr. Rasmussen’s article entitled “Accreditation is only part of restoring confidence” is right on target. Personally, after their record of overlooking barely-attached roof truss connections the first time, and then a second time, along with issuing occupancy permits for houses with known and documented, but uncorrected, building code defects, I will NEVER trust the current personnel in Beaufort County’s Office of Building Code Enforcement or Pulte.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

email your US Senators

Please support the arbitration provisions currently included in the “Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010.”

- Restoring American Financial Stability Act -
Pass the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection & Maintain Authority to Limit Abusive Forced Arbitration

The greedy, selfish, and reckless behavior by Wall Street caused the collapse of our economy, resulting in the loss of 7 million American jobs. The Senate must pass strong reform that holds Wall Street accountable. The more Congress delays, the greater the risk of another collapse that will cost more jobs and end the economic recovery. The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (CFPB) is an essential part of this reform package. Its purpose will be to protect the American consumer from unfair, deceptive, and abusive financial products.

As part of that mission, the Congressional legislation provides the CPFB and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) with the power to limit or prohibit the use of mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clauses from consumer and investment contracts. This language must remain in the bill and amendments to remove these sections should be opposed for the following reasons:

Consumers Need Protection from Forced Arbitration.
· The widespread use of forced arbitration clauses in contracts for financial services like credit cards, bank accounts, and auto financing is one of the most abusive and deceptive practices harming consumers today.
· Forced arbitration clauses are hidden in the fine print of consumer and investment contracts and strip the consumer and investor of the right to file claims against these major Wall Street firms; instead, these clauses result in the funneling of all claims into a secret and biased system controlled by Wall Street. These clauses are presented on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, an individual has no choice unless s/he forgoes the product altogether – not a realistic choice when it comes to a cell phone, bank account, or credit card.
· Forced arbitration clauses eliminate incentives for Wall Street to treat consumers and investors fairly because they know they will never be held publicly accountable for their actions.

The approach in the Senate bill is modest and narrowly targeted.
· Section 931 would provide the SEC with the authority to limit forced arbitration in investment contacts. The issue of forced arbitration within the securities context has already been studied and found to be grossly unfair to investors.
[1] Accordingly, the SEC needs the discretion to address the issue of forced arbitration. Section 921 merely provides that the SEC “may” issue rules to “impose conditions or limitations” on the use of forced arbitration; it would be under no obligation to do so.
· Similarly, Section 1028 would allow the CFPB to restrict and or ban forced arbitration from financial service contracts but only after it studies the issue and makes recommendations. Also, Section 1028 merely provides that the Bureau “may” issue rules to “impose conditions or limitations” on the use of forced arbitration; it would be under no obligation to do so.

Forced arbitration threatens the goals of transparency, fairness, and accountability.
· Secret Proceedings. Consumer arbitration is a private, unregulated system. When claims are heard in arbitration there is no public record kept of the proceedings or outcomes, no requirement that the law be applied, no mandatory uniform standards for arbitrators, and no way for the public to learn about a company’s bad practices.
· Arbitrator Bias. Typically, Wall Street firms select the arbitrator and determine the rules of procedure. Likewise arbitrators depend on the repeat business of Wall Street, referring to these Wall Street firms that use their services as their “clients,” thus ensuring that these “clients” are kept happy by continuously rendering them favorable decisions. In such a biased system, consumers are denied the opportunity to have their claims heard by a neutral party.
· Elimination of Statutory Rights. Rights are meaningless if unenforceable and under the present system of forced arbitration, long fought for and well-established statutory rights are undermined and often negated by a biased arbitrator. In the consumer context, the following statutory rights are often not enforced by the arbitrator: the Truth in Lending Act, portions of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the civil provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the Home Owners Equity Protection Act, the Consumer Leasing Act, the Credit Repair Organizations Act, and the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

A Federal Solution is the Only Solution.
· The Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) trumps state consumer protection laws; states have been left powerless to protect their own citizens through state law because of the breadth and reach of the FAA.
· The problem of forced consumer arbitration must be addressed by Congress and/or federal agencies because current law dictates that all state regulations limiting forced arbitration are preempted by the FAA. Accordingly, it is critical that the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection be empowered to investigate and restrict the practice where necessary.

[1] David Serchuk, When Arbitration Fails, Forbes, 05.15.09, available at

To see supporting orgianizations:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Retirees, "BEWARE!"

Heads up, retirees!

Resales and property values won’t be helped by an UGLY replacement wall.
Do you think that Pulte/Centex cares?

If so, guess again.

Monday, April 26, 2010

how many gallons?

How many gallons of new stormwater runoff will result from the Sembler MEGA mall? The short answer is that at this point, from a technical perspective, that there's insufficient information to know.

We DO know from information that Sembler initially submitted, and then withdrew, that they expect that more than 70% of their site will be impervious. That's HUGE! They're saying that 70% of the rainfall that falls on their site will run off.

We know that the average rainfall in this area is approximately 52 inches per year. So why can't the volume of stormwater runoff that will reach the Okatie be calculated? 52 inches times the area of the site times 70%? It's a relatively simple calculation.

The volume of runoff that will reach the Okatie can't be calculated at this point for several reasons. One of the biggest reasons is that we don't know at this point how stormwater runoff from the site will be handled. Will it all go to the Okatie? Or will some of it go to the New River (where SCHH's stormwater runoff goes)? Also, how will on-site storage be handled? Will it be handled in wet ponds (lagoons) like SCHH's stormwater is handled?

The average 52 inches rainfall per year comes from MANY rainfall events. If wet ponds are used for storage, then runoff from some of those events will be totally contained in the storage ponds. None will be released to the Okatie or the New River.

Predicting the volume of stormwater runoff that results from a developed site is a relatively complex process that involves mathematical modeling. It should be left to experts.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Hardeeville mayor and Jasper County Councilman announce new 'reality tax'

April 24, 2010

Hardeeville, SC—Mayor Bronco Bostick of tiny Hardeeville, SC and Jasper County Council Chairman George Hood announced a new “reality tax” at a joint news conference on Friday. Mayor Bostick and Councilman Hood said that the new tax would only be levied on people from gated communities.

Mayor Bostick said that proceeds from the new tax, expected to be more than $150 million, would be used to help build a GIGANTIC shopping mall in the headwaters of the Okatie Estuary, which is outside tiny Hardeeville’s jurisdiction.

Jasper County Council Chairman George Hood said that the reality tax has been talked about for years and naysayers should have acted sooner. “We want to move forward,” he said.

Part of the tax plan includes taxing bottled stormwater that will be sold in high-end stores in the new mega shopping mall under the brand name "Gotcha Water". Gotcha is a subsidiary of Gucci.

Mayor Bostick predicted that the tax revenue from Gotcha Water alone would exceed $100 million. The mayor said “We expect Gotcha Water to be a HUGE success, given the large local population who have lost touch with reality.” Mayor Bostick and Councilman Hood said that the remainder of the funds needed to build the mega shopping mall would come from the school budget.

Mayor Gary Hodges from nearby Ridgeland, SC, which is even tinier than tiny Hardeeville, SC, announced his unconditional support for the new tax. “We look forward to the BILLIONS of dollars that will be raised by the new tax, and the MILLIONS of new jobs that Gotcha Water will create.”

Hardeeville City Councilman Bill Horton said he is glad the three bodies are finally coming together —by working with the county and Ridgeland he hopes to help Jasper County grow. “A community has to have some growth,” he said. “We have to have a reason for young people to stay. They are leaving in droves.”

Jasper County Planning Director David Jirousek announced a new county satellite office. Jirousek said that they expect to launch the new satellite office soon from the new Ridgeland Space Center.

Hardeeville City Manager Ted Felder discussed a “green” industrial center that could bring 65 MILLION new jobs to Hardeeville and said that while Hardeeville “is not growing as fast as we thought,” it’s still one of the fasted growing areas in the Southeast, with Reflections doing “pretty well.” Felder also announced that Hardeeville is negotiating with the Jolly Green Giant to manage the new project. “We believe that he has the credibility and the stature that we need to make this project a HUGE success” said Felder.

Officials from neighboring Beaufort County, and spokespersons for DHEC, the Carolina Coastal League and the South Carolina Policy Council were unavailable for comment.

"out of touch with reality"?


The mayors of Hardeeville and Ridgeland and their cohorts think that we’re REALLY stupid.

The mayor of Hardeeville says that we (people in gated communities) are "out of touch with reality" because we balk at their proposal to locate a 1.6 MILLION sq. ft. MEGA mall in SCHH’s front yard. We balk at giving $150+ MILLION in sales tax incentives to a PRIVATE DEVELOPER to build a MEGA shopping mall, at the same time when SC schools have been AT THE BOTTOM of the nation for year after year after year. We balk at locating the MEGA mall in OUR front yard with all of its attendant traffic, environmental, crime, and other problems. It’s located in the headwaters of the Okatie, which will ruin the Okatie, and shrimping and crabbing from OUR Riverbend pier, FOREVER.

They lure us here to retire, and benefit from our $ supporting their local businesses, and our tax $, and then they dump on us. They tell us to our faces that we're "out of touch with reality". They say "Yankee go home". At the same time they expect us to embrace their MEGA mall project.

Actually, I see quite clearly how Bronco and his friends think that we’re stupid, and that we can be pushed around. After all, by and large, we haven’t stood up to Pulte, the SCHH CA, Beaufort County, DHEC, etc. By and large, we’ve done NOTHING in response to the STEADY stream of insults directed towards us in BT’s vox.

I say "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH". "out of touch with reality"?
Bronco, tell your friends that those are fightin’ words. Tell them that it’s YOU who are "out of touch with reality." AND, tell them that we AREN’T going back to where we came from. We’re here to stay, and SOME of us are going to fight you EVERY step of the way.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


a friend of mine sent me a link to an article:

Here's my reply to my friend:

"lazy"? I believe that it's more evil than that. Try "rip off".

"Short cut" doesn't begin to tell the story. Pulte substitutes nails for hurricane clips. "Short cut"? Or a dishonest, reckless, DELIBERATE act that places people's lives and property in danger?

Along with Pulte and inept and/or corrupt government (e.g., Beaufort County, SC and San Antonio, TX building departments), I've got JD Power in my sights. JD Power is one of the pigs feeding at the Pulte trough. Pulte uses JD Power BIG TIME to sell their houses--at a cost. JD Power charges builders for their services.

Nice try, Forbes, but FAR short of the REAL problem.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Sembler mall


Tidal Creek Habitats: Sentinels of Coastal Health

This booklet explores tidal creek ecosystems and the various threats to the valuable services they provide. Includes recommendations for protecting these habitats, additional resources, and glossary of terms. 2008. 24 pp. FREE

“In conclusion, tidal creeks, particularly the headwater portions, provide early warning of the impacts from coastal development on estuaries. The message derived from recent studies of tidal creeks is straightforward: The types and levels of watershed development greatly influence the amount of stormwater runoff and pollution that is released in coastal waters. Poorly planned or sprawling development patterns that create large amounts of impervious cover adversely affect the biological integrity and human uses derived from tidal creek habitats.”

Translation: Sembler mall will end shrimping and crabbing from Riverbend pier.

You can order Tidal Creek Habitats: Sentinels of Coastal Health, complete with photos and illustrations, FREE on line at

Pulte's "strong arm" tactics and government failures


Sherwin Tolentino, who is among the 27 evacuated homeowners who have had their certificates of occupancy revoked by the city, was told he had until Monday to accept the builder's buyback offer.

The offer covers the purchase price, closing costs, moving expenses, home improvements, utilities for the last few months and some attorney fees.

But Tolentino is unhappy that the offer does not include damages. He said he would have been in better financial shape if he had rented an apartment for the past few years, which would cost about half the price of his $2,000-a-month mortgage payment, and pocketed the rest in savings.

“They're pressuring me to sign their proposal or they're going to kick me out,” Tolentino said. “It's just tough for me to swallow. I need to start my life all over again.”

How would YOU feel?

You bought a new house in a new neighborhood.

A 1,000 ft. long, 30 FT. HIGH, retaining wall collapses.

Your house is condemned. You’re forced to live in a motel.

You learn that the builder didn’t have a building permit for the collapsed retaining wall. You learn that the City Building Inspection Department doesn’t have plans. You learn that certain San Antonio Building Department inspectors are being investigated by the FBI for taking bribes.

Pulte-Centex tells you that they’ll buy your house back for the amount that you paid for it over a year ago. They give you only a few days to think it over. They tell you that if you don’t sign that they’ll stop paying for your hotel.

How do you feel about Pulte-Centex? Would YOU buy a house from them?

How do you feel about the City of San Antonio Building Inspection Department?

How do you feel about government employees and politicians who are supposed to be looking out for you?

My sincere condolences to you, Mr. Tolentino, and to others like you in the Hills of Rivermist. Your trust in the builder and in government has been violated. I pray that you, and others like you, will recover from THEIR sins.


Monday, April 5, 2010


It was recently reported to me that Shannon Hicks, PE, Manager for DHEC-OCRM’s Permitting Section, told a group of Sun City residents that as long as a stormwater management lagoon met DHEC-OCRM’s storage volume requirements that the lagoon can be ONE INCH DEEP. “Our regulations don’t regulate depth.”

C’mon, Ms. Hicks! EVERY engineer knows that a stormwater management pond needs depth to filter out pollutants.

The problem is DHEC-OCRM’s regulations:

· DHEC regulations don’t require embankments on SWM ponds
· DHEC regulations don’t require that soil in embankments be compacted
· DHEC regulations don’t require that embankments be clear of trees
· DHEC regulations don’t require freeboard
· DHEC regulations don’t require that materials and workmanship for control structures be such that they won’t leak
· DHEC regulations don’t require that pipes connecting ponds, that are vital to the operation of the system, be cleared of silt
· DHEC regulations don’t require fences where steep slopes present a safety hazard
· DHEC regulations don’t require that ponds be built according to approved plans
· DHEC regulations don’t protect the environment

You don’t need an engineer to be a bureaucrat--just someone who can read.


Sunday, April 4, 2010


I admit it. When it comes to a GIGANTIC shopping mall in our front yard, I’m a NIMBY.

I didn’t retire here to have a GIGANTIC shopping mall in my front yard. I retired here to enjoy the ocean, the saltwater estuaries, the saltwater marshes, the wetlands, etc. I didn’t retire here to be ensnarled in mall traffic.

I don’t like giving tax money that is intended for public schools to private developers. Year after year SC schools rank at the bottom of the nation. Fix the schools. Forget about giving public tax money to private shopping mall developers.

I don’t like the way that tiny Hardeeville “sucker punched” us, and the rest of Beaufort County, by locating their shopping mall on the edge of tiny Hardeeville, in our front yard. If you want to build a GIGANTIC shopping mall in your tiny town, then put it in the MIDDLE of your tiny town, at I-95 and US 17 (exit 5).

I don’t like the way that DHEC-OCRM, the supposed-to-be state environmental protection agency, has NEVER met a private developer that they didn’t like. “DEE HECK” with 3 acres of wetlands that will be filled. “DEE HECK” with the Okatie estuary, that we enjoy from Riverbend pier. “DEE HECK” with the shellfish that will disappear when all the new stormwater runoff is dumped into the Okatie. “DEE HECK” with SC’s beautiful coastal environment.

I don’t give a rat’s behind if tiny Hardeeville wants to build a GIGANTIC shopping mall at exit 5 WITHOUT public money. Go right ahead. It’s your tiny town. However, when tiny Hardeeville wants to put a GIGANTIC shopping mall in OUR front yard, we, who retired here, and who are more than 5 TIMES the population of tiny Hardeeville, then I’m a NIMBY, and I’m proud of it.

Tom Davis says that we should get ready for Sembler Round 2. I’m with you, Senator Davis. Let’s get it on.


Friday, April 2, 2010


In my 40+ years as an engineer, I’ve encountered a lot of people who try to tell me my business. As a consequence, I’ve seen a lot of misinformation being spread around by people who don’t have engineering degrees or licenses.

Sembler Company has proposed building a MEGA shopping mall in little Okatie, SC. The size of the mall has been widely reported as 1.5 MILLION square feet and 1.6 MILLION square feet. What’s 100,000 sq. ft. between friends? The area of the Sembler site has been reported as 280 acres and 282 acres. What’s 2 acres between friends?

The impervious area of the site has been reported to be in excess of 200 acres, and as high as 100% impervious. For a civil engineer, these numbers are not only incredibly high, they’re just plain INCREDIBLE. I’ll explain.

In runoff calculations the runoff coefficient is a measure of the imperviousness of a surface. A 0.3 runoff coefficient means that 30% of the rain striking that surface will run off. Runoff coefficients for some NATURAL surfaces are greater than 0.5. However, runoff coefficients are always less than 1.0. Not ALL rain striking even a hard surface runs off. In engineering calculations there is no 100% impervious.

I came to find out that Sembler had submitted some PRELIMINARY runoff calculations with their PRELIMINARY proposal:

Basin #1 – 107.81 acres, about 70% impervious
Basin #2 – 114.38 acres, about 70% impervious
Basin #3 – 101.90 acres, about 70% impervious
Basin #4 – 14.01 acres, about 90% impervious

When added together the total area = 338.1 acres, NOT 280 or 282. It seems that Sembler included approximately 56 acres of housing along with their mall proposal.

Engineers use “equivalent impervious acres” in their drainage calculations. For example, a 100-acre site with a UNIFORM 0.5 runoff coefficient (or 50% impervious) would contain 50 “equivalent” impervious acres. However, that's NOT to say that there are 50 other acres on the site with a runoff coefficient of zero, or TOTALLY pervious. The 50 "equivalent" impervious acres are NOT an actual area; they are an "equivalent", or virtual, area.

This above example is a GROSS oversimplification. The “equivalent” acres for the 338-acre Sembler site from their PRELIMINARY calculations are:

Basin #1 – 75.5 acres impervious
Basin #2 – 80.1 acres impervious
Basin #3 – 71.3 acres impervious
Basin #4 – 12.6 acres impervious

When added together, the total “equivalent” impervious area is 239.5 acres, for the 338 acres.

To a trained eye, it’s apparent that these are ROUGH numbers. Basin #4, given its small area and “about 90% impervious” is probably mostly hard surfaces, e.g., roofs or pavements. The fact that Basins 1, 2, & 3 are all “about 70% impervious” tells me that these are ROUGH calculations. For these three basins to all have the SAME aggregate imperviousness of 70%, the ratio of hard surfaces to natural surfaces would have to be EXACTLY the SAME for all three areas. Obviously (to a trained eye), that CANNOT be the case.

It’s helpful to know what you’re talking about before you start talking (or defending) numbers.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

"watered down" HR 1020

Bill HR 1020, known as the Arbitration Fairness Act, is before Congress. The bill is being promoted as protecting consumer rights.

In an article titled “Changes Afoot—the proposed Arbitration Fairness Act”, ( Andrew Ness, writing for Construction Management Guide has the following to say about HR 1020:

“Supporters of the proposed change believe that mandatory arbitration is being used in ways unfair to parties of unequal bargaining power who routinely fail to read the “fine print” mandating arbitration in many consumer transactions…”

“The proposed AFA would limit the scope of the Arbitration Act to exclude from its coverage: a) disputes between an employer and employee arising out of their employment relationship; b) consumer disputes between an individual and the seller or provider of real or personal property, services, money, or credit for personal, family, or household purposes; and c) disputes between a franchisor and a franchisee."

WAIT A MINUTE! “…UNEQUAL BARGAINING POWER…” ??? Where is bargaining power MORE unequal than between an individual homeowner and a builder?

This is VERY disturbing. Why does a proposed bill that is supposed to be relief for homeowner consumers explicitly exclude homeowners from arbitration “fairness”?

Contact your US Congressional representatives (1 House; 2 Senate) TODAY and tell them you want them to support HR 1020, the Arbitration Fairness Act, WITHOUT excluding transactions between a builder and an individual homeowner.


Dear Senator Graham,

Bill HR 1020, known as the Arbitration Fairness Act, is before Congress. The bill is being promoted as protecting consumer rights.

In an article titled “Changes Afoot—the proposed Arbitration Fairness Act”, ( Andrew Ness, writing for Construction Management Guide, has the following to say about HR 1020:

“Supporters of the proposed change believe that mandatory arbitration is being used in ways unfair to parties of unequal bargaining power who routinely fail to read the “fine print” mandating arbitration in many consumer transactions…”

“The proposed AFA would limit the scope of the Arbitration Act to exclude from its coverage: a) disputes between an employer and employee arising out of their employment relationship; b) consumer disputes between an individual and the seller or provider of real or personal property, services, money, or credit for personal, family, or household purposes; and c) disputes between a franchisor and a franchisee.”

Exception b) is very disturbing. NOWHERE is bargaining power MORE unequal than between an individual homeowner and a builder.

I urge you to support the Arbitration Fairness Act, and to strike from the legislation any language that would exempt transactions between a builder and an individual homeowner.

Thank you.