Board reluctantly gives builder 30 days to finish work
● By J. Chambless
By Richard L. Gaw
At its Aug. 5 meeting, the London Grove Board of Supervisors agreed – albeit with severe reservations – to allow Willow Creek, LLC, the contractor for the second phase of construction at the Lamborn Hunt development in West Grove, to finish what remains on a long overdue list of projects in the development.
Speaking on behalf of Keystone Builders, the primary developer of Lamborn Hunt, attorney Gregg Adelman responded to the township's April 22 notice, which claimed that Keystone had defaulted on their promise to finish the work, consistent with the Lamborn Hunt-Plan B Subdivision and Land Development Improvement Agreement. In subsequent board meetings, the supervisors have threatened to pull the security bond it established with Keystone, and hire contractors on its own in order to complete these long-delayed projects.
Making reference to an Aug. 5 letter to Township Manager Steve Brown that detailed the work that has been completed recently, Adelman encouraged the supervisors not to pull the security bond.
In the letter, Adelman said that additional inlets and doghouse inlets have been installed along Conrey Trail and Lamborn Ridge Drive; work has been completed on the installation of top soil along roadsides throughout the development; and that dead trees in front of homes will be replaced during the fall growing season. In addition, the letter said that 39 items on the to-do punch list at Lamborn Hunt have have either been completed or are underway.
“Keystone has been on site and they have been doing on a majority of these items, many of which have been resolved,” he said. “Work is being completed as diligently as possible, and we're here to continue to finish off these items and move to the dedication process,” he said.
Township Engineer Ron Ragan told the supervisors that he has visited Lamborn Hunt several times recently, and said that the projects are “in the neighborhood of being 95 percent complete,” although he said improvements to five infiltration berms still have not been completed.
In response, Adelman said that Keystone recently received approval by the Conservation District to install additional piping in these berms, and that the builder has agreed that it will post financial security in order continue to monitor these berms, as well as take remedial measures in order to increase the infiltration in the berms, which may include adding soils and require additional grading.
There are a small number of utility boxes not at grade in the development, which Ragan said need to be fixed by either Verizon or PECO. He said that Keystone has removed much of the debris that was found and identified by Lamborn Hunt homeowners in the wooded area adjacent to the development, and that Keystone will also fix street crossings on nature trails in the development.
The cost of the remaining punch list is less than $25,000, Ragan estimated.
Adelman encouraged the board to stick with Keystone.
“In my experience in dedications, I would tell the board that this is not one where you call the financial security,” he said. "With five percent or less left done on a punch list, and the developer on site still working, and security is still up to where the township is protected. You don't want to touch it because once you touch it, you own it. The best thing to do is keep the developer in there, keep the security in place, get the work done, continue to work on inspections, make sure the township engineer signs off on it, and then we get the dedication and we're done.
“As long as you're here and continually holding the developer's feet to the fire, it will get done,” Adelman added. “We'll make sure that it gets done, because the developer wants to get his bond released and his financial security released.”
The board then began to reiterate back to Adelman the vehement and seemingly broken-record chorus of doubt, as echoed by Lamborn Hunt residents and township officials for well over a year, that has openly questioned whether this long-delayed punch list of projects will ever be completed.
"Mr. Adelman, in response to your earlier comment that we shouldn't take the bond, I have to say I'm very upset with the way that your client has not performed on getting this punch list completed, and I have doubts in my head that it will get done, properly," said Supervisor David Connors. "To see a lack of progress in good growing months really was very disappointing. Your client could have gotten a lot of this work done by now."
"Mr. Connors, we're almost there," Adelman said. "Whether it's the board's actions or the client kicking into high gear, I think we can get there.”
"That's what we've seen multiple times," Connors responded. "We see periods when we see a week or two of activity, and then nothing."
"It's been pretty constant and consistent over the last two months, and I'd like to see it continue, and we have one growing season left before the winter to get plantings in, and that's something that needs to be done, clearly," Adelman said. "From a linear, logical perspective, the best way to get this done is to keep them on site."
"I would agree with you that taking the bond is probably the worst thing for the township to do, but at least we'd have the absolute certainty that [the remaining punch list of work] is going to get done at some point," Connors said.
Lamborn Hunt residents then promptly followed Connors, and doubt quickly morphed into frustration and disgust.
Resident Stacy Starr, who has had four homes built, called Keystone and its contractors this is "the most dysfunctional group work in a development" he's ever seen.
"They move dirt around like they're some little kid, and you see piles and mounds of dirt for months on end," Starr said. "It's frustrating to see these mounds and then grass grows on them that's two feet high."
Resident Eric Rittenhouse said that work has not been done near his property for the past two months, and told the supervisors that during rains, large puddles and a gully run from the front of his home to the rear of his home.
"I would ask that the contractors on our site have a little more respect for our properties. My home is not a construction site," he said. "Last week, a dump truck came and dragged my son's basketball net from one side of my home to the other side of my home. I contacted Keystone, who said that they were going to contact the contractor. The next day, I confronted the contractor, who said he hadn't heard from Keystone."
After continued deliberation, largely about the complexities of pulling the bond on the project and completing the work themselves, the board voted to hold off on taking action against Keystone, and rather, give the builder 30 more days to complete the work. After the decision was reached, Supervisor Mike Pickel confronted Adelman.
"What are we going to see from you guys in the next seven days, 14 days, 21 days and 30 days? Because after tonight, we're not having this discussion again," he said. "Will we hear from someone from Keystone?"
The supervisors asked that a continual line of communication be established with Keystone during the next 30 days.
Connors recommended that the township initiate communication with Rep. John Lawrence and State Sen. Andrew Dinniman in order to propose state laws that help protect residents against developers who do not complete projects on time.
"I'm hearing residents making one of the biggest purchases of their lives going into a sale center and purchasing something, and then getting something different, and not having the knowledge that there's going to be a storm water basin in their back yard or in their front yard," he said.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .