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Bankrupt developer leaves Durham neighborhood with rough roads

Posted September 26, 2011

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— A Durham neighborhood has waited almost five years for its streets to be finished, and a federal lawsuit is keeping work from being done.

More than 450 homes are in the Stone Hill Estates subdivision, off Freeman and Clayton roads north of N.C. Highway 98 east of Durham. Work on paving, sidewalk construction and stormwater systems ended when developer MacGregor Development filed for bankruptcy in 2008.

"The neighborhood looks unfinished, especially if you come in here and you drive around," resident Charles Thomas said. "It's a mess."

Thomas, who has lived in Stone Hill Estates since 2007, said he thought the neighborhood would be the ideal place to raise a family. Now, he's not so sure, noting that he has watched for years as other residents and visitors would swerve to try to avoid hitting the manholes and access covers to buried utility lines that stick up from the streets.

"It's kind of getting out of hand. You don't see a lot of this in other neighborhoods," he said.

A visitor once tripped over a utility cover and broke her foot, said James Williams, president of the homeowners association.

Williams said he has spent more than $2,100 to replace his tires three times since 2007 and for more frequent front-end realignments and tire rotations.

What irks him more, however, is that Durham won't send snow plows and street sweepers into the neighborhood because of the rough roads.

"People are totally disgusted because they are paying for services and services aren't being rendered," he said.

Stone Hill Estates is among 10 Durham neighborhoods where financially strapped developers haven't finished all the work required by the city, officials said.

Unfinished street in Stone Hill Estates Unfinished streets irk Durham neighborhood

They declined to comment Monday on complaints by Stone Hill Estates residents, citing a lawsuit between the city and two insurance companies. Developers Surety and Indemnity Co. and Selective Insurance Co. of America have said they would pay only for certain work, while city officials have demanded that everything be finished.

The city's Public Works Department refuses to do any work in the neighborhood until the lawsuit is resolved, which likely won't be until next spring at the earliest.

"Nobody wants to step up and take responsibility," Thomas said.

Williams and other residents fear they will eventually have to foot the bill for finishing their neighborhood streets. He moved to Durham from Maryland to retire, he notes, not fight over who should finish the work outside his door.

"If I had to do it all over again, I would be in the Brier Creek area in Raleigh – somewhere (else) but not here in Durham," he said.

9 Comments

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  • Shamrock Sep 28, 2011

    "Go and cry me a river. Just go to ACE hardware a buy some cement and build the road up around to the manhole.".
    parkranger72

    Illegal, can't do it. Why shouldn't these people get what was promised and should be completed? Why should their property values suffer because some developer skipped out? You make no sense.

  • parkranger72 Sep 28, 2011

    Go and cry me a river, you should be lucky that you have a roof over your head. Just go to ACE hardware a buy some cement and build the road up around to the manhole. also slow down, you would do less damage to your tires.

  • edvenable Sep 27, 2011

    Construction of the roads is the Developers responsibility. In this case the developer declared bankruptcy and left the project for the citizens to deal with. Durham City Council heard the residents and directed Public Works top step in and help. Public Works first step was to call the bonds. Bonds are an instrument of an insurance company. Once the insurance company found out how much the fix would cost, they said no. Public Works turned to the City Attorney’s office and we insisted. The insurance company has responded with a lawsuit. The City remains committed to working through this, but once a lawsuit gets into play, the rules change and everything slows down. We will do our best to keep this moving forward.

  • ConcernedNCC Sep 27, 2011

    Williams said he has spent more than $2,100 to replace his tires three times since 2007 and for more frequent front-end realignments and tire rotations.

    I would suggest he watch how he drives as this is excessive even for people who live on dirt roads. Maybe slow down a little bit in his neighborhood.

  • yankee1 Sep 26, 2011

    Isn't it interesting that Durham claims the road base is inadequate 3 to 4 years after somebody in the inspections Department allowed the project to continue? Sounds like an attempt to collect extra money from the insurance company to use elsewhere. Otherwise one can conclude that the original inspections were bad.

  • Arrggghhhh Sep 26, 2011

    Tax Man a bond is required, note the dispute mentioned in the article. Usually City is incompentent in managing the bond and making sure the bond is sufficent to complete the work remaining or to make sure the bond is renewed. If the development company is not compliant the City can ask the bonding agency to step in at anytime, but only if the city has done it's homework.

  • Tax Man Sep 26, 2011

    The bankruptcy should not discharge the developers of their required duties! This company made hundreds of millions of dollars of profits over the years and paid all of it out to its shareholders - then the company went belly up but the principals remained wealthy and just started new companies. A bond should be required and bankruptcy should not discharge them of the duties owed for the infrastructure. Perhaps criminal prosecution would be appropriate.

  • Fuquay Resident Sep 26, 2011

    Never buy a home in a neighborhood with unfinished streets unless you are prepared to live with them that way.

  • Screw WrAl Sep 26, 2011

    So what, then their roads are like all the others in this area, the worst in the country!