Saturday, July 24, 2010

arrogance = Pulte/Wentworth fights residents

Sunnyside Up for July 22, 2010

Does it sometimes seem the world is upside down?

That is the case in a dispute between residents at the cul-de-sac end of Coburn Drive East and the Sun City Administration. The gist of the dispute is access from the maintenance yard to the cul-de-sac. The original plans as permitted by the county showed that permanent access to Sun City would be provided through the existing paved path leading to the golf cart path near the 14th fairway. A berm would be installed to block access to Coburn Drive. Del Webb applied for and received a temporary permit to access Coburn by leaving a portion of the berm at the cul-de-sac open. Once construction access was no longer needed, the berm would be completed. The latter was never done. Instead, the company constructed a road and eventually a gate to provide access. What they failed to do was get the necessary permits for this change in plans from the county.

The continued access quickly became a thorn in the side of the residents. All the maintenance equipment now rolled through what should have been a quiet neighborhood, but nobody was at the gate to prevent unauthorized contractor vehicles from entering. Eventually that gate was locked and things quieted down.

Then a new management company and a new Executive Director arrived. The maintenance folks convinced the executive director that access from the yard via SC 170 to Sun City was dangerous. Why it was more dangerous for employees to use SC 170 than it was for residents exiting thru the Del Webb Blvd gate is a mystery. The maintenance department offered a simple solution. Re-open the gate and allow all maintenance vehicles to get into Sun City without going out on SC 170. The residents protested and the fight was on.

The property owners submitted paperwork to the administration making their case that this access was illegal and unauthorized. They pointed out that their property values dropped considerably because the gate was there but all to no avail. Instead, the administration hired a lawyer to deal with the problem. Just consider, our administration wasted our money to pay a lawyer to fight residents with a legitimate complaint.

One of the residents also hired a lawyer and eventually paid thousands of dollars to answer the administration lawyer’s efforts to keep that gate open. Did the residents have a legitimate claim? All the paperwork said so. The county advised the administration that for every day the gate was open a fine would be issued.

Did the administration quit? Not by a long shot. They decided instead to file for a permit to make this access legal. Of course, this involved more work for their lawyer, more money out of your and my pockets.

Even correspondence from the county zoning office pointing out that the access was illegal and that residents would have to agree to a change failed to make an impression. Where does this issue stand today?

The gate remains locked. I don’t think that Pulte, and they are the successor to Del Webb, will ever construct the berm required by the original plans. The residents on Coburn Drive are out thousands of dollars for legal fees. The real irony is that these good people not only had to pay for their own lawyer but also paid for the opposing lawyer through their association fees.

It does seem that the world is upside down.

Carl Lehmann is a resident of SCHH who writes a weekly column for Bluffton Today.

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