Development's residents still outraged about builder's delays
By Richard Gaw
It does not take a visitor to the Lamborn Hunt in London Grove Township very long to see the lingering warts of the development's construction.
They all protrude with easy visibility, and no matter how loud the voices of those who protest their appearance, they still haven't gone away, which is made especially alarming, given that the last house in this 36-unit, single-home development was finished more than two years ago.
These imperfections form a lengthy punch list of embarrassment for the builder, and safety hazards for the residents. It's all there to see: improper drainage in front of several lots, exposed water pipes, debris left in nearby wooded areas and in public areas, improper drainage areas that creates significant sidewalk pooling, trees planted by the builder that are now dead, cable and telephone boxes that are not adjusted to height regulations, large sewer pipes with no grate coverings, and more than one dozen additional infractions that have been spelled out by the Lamborn Hunt's homeowners association in a detailed list and provided to London Grove Township.
Last Wednesday, for the second time in two months, the most vocal of these residents came to the London Grove Board of Supervisors meeting and raised not only their hands in frustration but their voices in anger.
The target of their rage? Keystone Custom Homes, the Lamborn Hunt builder, and one of the top 100 home builders in the nation, who is ranked by the industry's leading trade journal and one of Central Pennsylvania's largest independent homebuilders, with homes in 44 communities.
Township Manager Steve Brown told the supervisors at the July 1 meeting that although some minor work has been done by Keystone since its last meeting on June 3, several items on the long to-do list still await attention.
The biggest issue, Brown said, is that some infiltration basins need to be repaired in order to lessen the amount of water in them. Keystone's engineers created a design that would alleviate the water levels and submitted it to the township, but Brown said that the County Conservation District and the township engineer – Ragan Engineering – found the design to be inadequate.
Brown said that Keystone needs to pump the water from the basins and perform the perk and soil testing to satisfy the County Conservation District and Ragan Engineering.
"Some tree work has been done. They're going to put some additional inlets in that we asked for...but basically, not much has been done in the last month," Brown told the supervisors.
"They (Keystone) have agreed that they are going to do some things that they have not done yet?" asked board chairman Richard Scott-Harper.
"Basically, they haven't said 'No' to anything, but it's a matter of getting them to do it," Brown responded. "They're on the clock, and their clock expires at the end of the month," which, he said, coincides with the dedication of open space in the development.
"The problem we have is that there wasn't even a good-faith effort by Keystone, so here we were back in April, hearing that they we going to do something, and here we are at the end of June and July," said Lamborn Hunt resident Tony Taglione. "The weather was great through all of May, and they did absolutely did nothing but put some dirt with rocks around the road and put some grass seed on it...We were willing to give them a couple of months [to complete the punch list]. It's been four months."
Taglione's comments on July 1 were merely the latest chapter marker in what has become a broken record of conversation between London Grove Township and Lamborn Hunt residents. At a board meeting on Oct, 2, 2013, a dozen residents expressed their concerns about safety in their neighborhood stemming from what they called shoddy work. On April 1 of his year, Taglione filled the supervisors in on the myriad of problems that have continued as a result of Keystone's tardiness, which include downed trees that have not yet been removed, flooded sidewalks, storm drains that do not meet regulation standards, and the fact that some of the retention ponds in the development do not properly collect water during heavy rains.
At the time, Keystone representatives assured Brown that these issues would be resolved beginning in mid-April. After discussion, the board agreed that the township would send Keystone a default notice, giving them 90 days to finish the improvements in the development. If the punch list of projects were not completed after 90 days, the township had the right to take a financial letter of credit it holds on the development -- and bid out the cost of the remaining projects, in order to get them done as soon as possible.
At its June 3 meeting, the board stepped up their earlier plan, agreeing that the township would give Keystone until July 21 to finish the punch list or pull the plug on the financial letter of credit. The board agreed that it would reach its decision at its Aug. 5 meeting.
"We're both in a frustrating place," Scott-Harper told Taglione. "You have more political power than we do, in going against the developer. But you're going to have to spend your money and take them to court. It's unfortunate, but that's the world we live in. Until we get to the point where we're close to a bond that's ready to be pulled, that's the only clout we have."
In other township business, the board authorized the bidding process for the improvement of a bridge in Goddard Park. The bridge, located in the park near the Stonecroft development, is badly in need of repair, said Diana Werner of the township's Park and Recreation Board.
"Right now, it's in bad shape," she said. "People are just making their own way across the creek, throwing in boulders and boards. It's really turning into bog, and it's a mess. We really need to get this connection in place, so that we can keep it both viable and aesthetically pleasing."
Michael Cardile was appointed by the board to the township's Environmental Advisory Council, a term that expires at the end of 2017.
The board gave approval to an annual 5K run/walk fundraising event through Goddard Park, which will be held on Sept. 19 and sponsored by The Garage Community and Youth Center. This will be third annual 5K event sponsored by The Garage at the park.
Supervisor Dave Connors said that in a recent meeting he had with Sen. Andrew Dinniman, he encouraged Dinniman to follow up with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) about the current status of PennDOT's design concepts, that are part of a plan to upgrade the Chatham intersection.