BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - $1,500 each. That's the bill about 85 homeowners in Brunswick County are reeling from, after the developer for their neighborhood went bankrupt before the roads were completely paved.
It's an aftershock from the real estate crash of 2008. McKee Homes has taken over development for the Lanvale Forest neighborhood, but homeowners are now being asked to share the cost of finishing the neighborhood's infrastructure.
"Being on the hook because other people didn't do their jobs is a real problem for the community," said homeowner Ruth McKee, who is no relation to the new builders.
GSD Development, the original owner of Lanvale Forest, went bankrupt during the crash and walked away from its obligations to lot owners. Homeowners say Brunswick County was supposed to insure a bond was in place to protect homeowners from situations like this, but for reasons unclear, that did not happen.
Because the paving was not finished, the roads throughout the relatively new community are in bad repair. Drivers have to swerve around manholes that are several inches higher than the rest of the pavement to avoid damaging their car. In other places, the pavement is sinking due to apparent drainage issues underneath the road.
The county did not have answers for us when we asked if they might be able to step into at least offset the financial burden for the homeowners since the county shared some of the responsibility for this hardship. But they have made changes to keep this from happening in the future.
"All of the required infrastructure must be in place before a final plat can be recorded, which in turn allows the sale of lots," Brunswick County Planning Director Mike Hargett explained of new development ordinances the county adopted last year.
Requiring roads, water, sewer, and stormwater infrastructure to be in place before a developer ever sells a lot leaves a lot less to chance for the homeowners. Hargett said developers are allowed to build model homes to help market planned developments, but that's all they can do until the infrastructure is finished.
"It's a great plan for other people, and it's probably the way it should be," Ruth McKee said of the county's new policy. "[But] it doesn't help this community…. I think the county should step up… They failed to make sure there was funding to finish this, and again, saying, 'Yea, we kind of messed up, but it's not our problem.'"
Lanvale Forest homeowners said the county is requiring McKee Homes to finish paving the roads before they can start building Phase 3. Pat McKee of McKee Homes said his company owns the majority of the lots in Lanvale Forest, and will, therefore, be paying more than anyone else to fix the problems left behind by the old developer.
But he said McKee Homes should not be solely responsible for picking up the estimated $250,000 it will cost to finish the necessary paving, and dividing the cost with other homeowners seemed like the fairest solution to share the burden under the circumstances.