Neighbors want unfinished houses condemned, razed
Posted March 25, 2009
Knightdale, N.C. — A Raleigh developer's bankruptcy has left the Villages at Beaver Dam subdivision pocked by unfinished houses, and residents want the structures removed.
St. Lawrence Homes developed the neighborhood, off Smithfield Road, but was able to complete about two dozen of its planned 150 houses before filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month. Half-finished houses and debris-filled empty lots surround the homes that families have bought.
"It's very, very ugly to drive up to. It's not a pleasant place to drive home to in the afternoon after you've paid all this money for these homes," resident Lasonya Downing said.
Downing bought a home in Villages at Beaver Dam eight months ago, envisioning a safe, quiet, beautiful place where her children could grow up. The neighborhood promised upscale homes and amenities like walking trails.
"They sold us on all these stories, and they're not even coming through with half of it," she said. "There have been promises made that haven't been kept."
Downing and Knightdale officials said the unfinished houses aren't just eyesores. The construction sites are a safety hazard for area children, they said.
"I think it's very dangerous. It's dangerous to anyone that even goes in that home," Downing said of an unfinished house next door to hers.
St. Lawrence Homes spokesman Richard Ohmann said all home sites have been secured and pose no hazard. He blamed the nationwide credit crunch and the downturn in the housing market for the company's financial troubles, but he said officials plan to reorganize and finish their developments.
Knightdale Mayor Russell Killen said town officials have talked with St. Lawrence Homes officials about the problem.
"They want to help. They feel bad about this, but at the end of the day, they don't have any money," Killen said.
Town officials are reviewing their options, including working with the bankruptcy court to fund cleaning up the lots and possibly condemning and tearing down some of the unfinished houses.
"It's not Knightdale. It's not the image any town wants to project," Killen said.