Homeowners irate over construction delays in London Grove development
By Richard L. Gaw
Nearly a dozen residents of the Lamborn Hunt development expressed their frustration at a London Grove Board of Supervisors meeting on Oct. 2 about safety concerns in their neighborhoods, stemming from what they called shoddy work on the part of the development's contractor, Keystone Custom Homes.
One by one, the residents spoke about the conditions in the development. There are sidewalks that have not yet been completed. There are sediment traps, water moats that form around houses after heavy rains, and huge cement water pipes that lay mere yards from where children play. School buses will not enter the development because some roads have not yet been fully paved. Contacts at Keystone keep changing, so that the development's homeowners association never knows who is in charge.
Lamborn Hunt is a 36-unit development of single-family homes tucked between State Road and South Guernsey Road, with homes priced from $280,000. On its website, Keystone advertises Lamborn Hunt as a location that "provides a keen sense of community with its tree-lined streets, sidewalks, landscaped berms and walking trails." According to the website, only two homes still remain for sale -- the key model on 501 Conrey Trail and the home at 615 Lamborn Ridge Drive.
Keystone Custom Homes is one of the top 100 home builders in the nation, ranked by the industry's leading trade journal, Builder Magazine, and is the first builder to be named America's Best Builder three times by the magazine in conjunction with the National Association of Home Builders, a 200,000-member trade organization. It is one of Central Pennsylvania's largest independent homebuilders, with homes in 44 communities.
Alex Johnson, a resident of Lamborn Ridge Drive, moved into the development in 2012. "We've had issues with them almost since we settled," he told the supervisors. "Right near my house is a temporary sediment pond that takes up nearly a third of my back yard, and we've been asking Keystone to fill the pond. Since then, I've been trying to get somebody to help them finish the job they started."
Mike Tickman has lived with his family on Conrey Trail for two months. In front of his home, there are two tall mounds of dirt in the center circle of the cul-de-sac. In the common ground behind his home, there has not yet been a solution to find where the rainwater will go, and to the side of his home, there are a few massive cement pipes that litter the edge of the road.
"I'm not sure what they're for," Tickman said of the pipes, "because Keystone said that there would be no drains, that here would be no sewers, and they they wanted to have the water naturally run off, which we don't think is a viable solution. They're spending a lot of time re-digging and re-sculpting. Just put the drains in."
On the other side of the Tickmans, Travis and Courtney Bement have been Lamborn Hunt residents since July. In that time, they've had their sidewalk, front yard and driveway torn up and replaced. "There are a lot of quick fixes and patches on the part of Keystone, but we get promises and promises from Keystone, but we haven't seen any results yet," Courtney said.
Assistance for the residents of the development is already under way. On Oct. 3, a day after the meeting, board chairman David Connors contacted a representative at Keystone. "I told him that he has several unhappy clients in the Lamborn Hunt community and that he should be concerned," Connors said. "I told him that the township will get intricately involved with the topics that were brought up in the supervisors meeting."
Township manager Steve Brown told Johnson that both the township and the Chester County Conservation District have been after Keystone for most of this past summer to take care of these issues and other similar issues throughout Lamborn Hunt. Brown said that he attended a meeting two weeks ago at the Lamborn model home with township engineer Ron Reagan that was attended by representatives from Keystone and the Conservation District. Brown said that Keystone agreed to make these improvements this fall.
"They've got to get these projects in, or else the Chester County Conservation District is going to start fining them," Brown said. "They've got the bigger stick than we [London Grove Township] do. Our next step is to have the District beat on them in order to get the work done this fall."
Another option, Brown said, would be to have the township take over the job itself, but due to the time needed to send out requests for estimates, the necessary work needed to be completed in the development would not be completed until next year.
Although Brown said that the Conservation District wields more influence than the township in the matter, the township has a few bargaining chips of its own, and they plan to use them. The township currently holds $807,082 in financial security escrow on the development, which have been approved by the township and its solicitor. At the urging of the Lamborn Hunt residents, the township agreed to send a default notice to Keystone that gives them a 30-day notice to complete the work remaining in the development. If the work is not completed during that time, the township will hold the bond.
Another option for the township would be to complete the work on its own but, according to Connors, holding the reigns of the long punch list of work in the development may take between 6 to 8 months, given the time needed to prepare specifications, send requests for estimates, and completing the work itself.
No representatives from Keystone were present at the meeting. A phone call from the Chester County Press a Keystone representative was not returned.
In other township business, the Inniscrone Golf Course reported a profit of $60,000 through August of this year, as opposed to the same period in 2012, when it reported a profit of $187. Course Manager Tom Bolko reported that revenues at the course have increased 20 percent over last year.
The Board is currently looking into improving traffic and passenger safety at the Church of the Nazarene and its neighbor, the Avon Grove Nazarene Academy School, on State Road. Recently, Brown and Public Works Director Shane Kinsey discussed potential options for the area, which included placing a "Watch Children" sign near the church, which would cost approximately $300 to install, or the installation of a "School Zone" sign, which would cost slighter more, and require Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) approval. Other alternatives would include developing a flashing light warning, which Brown said was estimated at $16,000, which included the cost of a traffic engineer estimated at $4,000, additional engineering for $2,000 and installation at about $10,000. There is also the opportunity for the township to perform an engineering traffic study of the site, which would require approval from PennDOT before implementing any recommendations that would come from the study. Supervisor Mike Pickel suggested that the township reach out to church and school administrators in order to receive their input.
The Board gave approval to changes to a storm water waiver for an easement to a property that the township owns that borders a private property on Wickertown Road in Franklin Township. Representing the property owner was Alan Hill of Hillcrest Associates.