This poster offering "Free Swimming Under House" hangs on the front door of 91-year-old 'Park Place" resident Nell Haynes in Rogersville. (Photo by Jeff Bobo)
ROGERSVILLE — Residents of a recently constructed “planned unit development” in Rogersville aren’t happy with their swimming pools — mainly because the pools are in the crawl space under their homes.
On Tuesday, the Rogersville Board of Mayor and Aldermen heard from an angry group of residents from the Park Place housing development off Park Boulevard.
There are currently about a dozen homes completed in the planned unit development (PUD), which was originally approved by the city in 2010. This PUD was originally designed to have 22 homes.
The current residents, most of whom are elderly and retired, say the project’s builder, Jonathan Lawson Construction of Surgoinsville, didn’t complete the project with proper drainage.
Now they’re suffering flooding in their crawl spaces, which has led to mold and mildew problems.
Although the brunt of their anger was aimed at Lawson, who didn’t attend Tuesday’s BMA meeting, residents were also angry with the city, and specifically the building inspector, who they blamed for not catching the inadequate drainage during the planning and construction phases.
City Attorney Bill Phillips told the angry residents that the issues under which the city has jurisdiction are being dealt with — including a drainage pond, a retaining wall and the road, which has been completed.
Lawson was cited into municipal court Tuesday for failure to complete a retaining wall up to city specs and failure to sod the drainage pond up to city specs.
“I inspected the retaining wall, and it is not tall enough, long enough, and doesn’t have enough drainage,” building inspector Steve Nelson told the BMA. “We also have an issue with the retention pond not being seeded and eroding, and I presented all of that to the city attorney to pass on to the contractor.”
Phillips told the residents for their drainage and mold issues they should hire an attorney and sue Lawson if he won’t fix the problem.
“The town of Rogersville has limited jurisdiction over this gentleman,” Phillips said. “I understand there are all kinds of problems up there, and I feel for the residents a great deal. Our jurisdiction is limited to what he had in his site plan, and that would be the road, the retaining wall and the retention pond.”
Phillips added, “As for the flooding and the drainage over there, I’m afraid we don’t have any jurisdiction over that.”
Lawson will appear in Rogersville Municipal Court on the new citation later this month. Lawson was previously fined $2,620 in 2011 by the city for failure to complete the road by the city’s deadline.
Park Place resident Robert Walters said he finds it hard to believe that the city can’t force Lawson to repair the faulty drainage, especially in light of the health problems the mold and mildew are now creating.
“You’re running the city,” Walters told the BMA. “Let’s get on him.”
Walters added, “Do you want to live in a house with mold, and water underneath your house every time it rains?”
Several residents have posted hand-written signs on their front doors and windows, including 91-year-old Nell Haynes whose sign reads, “Free swimming under my house.”
Other poster messages include:
•“Help us. Doctors say moldy wet conditions toxic to our health.”
•(Beneath a for sale sign) “All these houses has water, mold, mildew under them. Do you want to buy one?”
•“Water, mildew, mold damage. Like to live in this? Then buy here. Water stands underneath houses. Broken promises. More broken promises.”
Park Place resident Gracie Christian told the BMA her attorney, Jefferson Fairchild, wrote a letter to Lawson on May 13 asking him to repair drainage problems by June 1.
Christian said neither she nor Fairchild heard back from Lawson.
The letter points out that her home has substantial water damage and the crawl space is “extremely muddy and wet” — and identifies remedies suggested by a structural engineer.
Christian said she paid Lawson for the home in February of 2010, and she hasn’t been able to move in yet.
“If I hadn’t had another home to live in I’d have been hurting,” she said.
Residents said they can’t afford to hire a lawyer, and they can’t afford to fix the problems they said are between $6,000 and $13,000 apiece depending on the home.
“You need to hire a private attorney for whatever grievances you have outside of the three items I’ve told you that the city can, and is, taking care of,” Phillips told the residents. “I understand you’ve got problems, but you’ve got problems because of your builder and developer. Not because of the town of Rogersville.”