Residents of New Freedom neighborhood 'fed up' with delayed improvements
When Bobby Jackson moved with his then-pregnant wife in 2007 into his newly built home in the Koller Pointe development, he was told the temporary retention pond across the street would be gone within two years.
Jackson's 3-year-old daughter would later drive her Barbie jeep into that pond — luckily avoiding injury — and now, more than seven years after that incident, he is still faced with the large, unsightly hole in the ground when he leaves his New Freedom home for work every morning.
That hole — which the developer said is now a sediment basin — is the site of the final lot remaining for Keystone Custom Homes to build on in the 140-home community, where construction first began in 2006.
While new-home construction in Koller Pointe is near completion, the developer still has a lot of public improvements to complete, according to borough manager Tanya Crawford.
Crawford said the borough's engineer recently inspected the development and found numerous shortfalls, including stormwater management issues, road pavement problems and no street lights.
Issues: Jackson, who serves as president of the neighborhood's homeowners association, said he could write a book with all the issues he's heard over the years from fellow Koller Pointe residents.
"When we first moved in here, we asked all the right questions, but I wish we made them sign something," he said. "We just trusted them. ... We wouldn't have moved in if we knew how long everything was going to take."
After Jackson contacted The York Dispatch, he posted a message in the neighborhood's Facebook group asking for people to list their concerns.
Within a few hours, Jackson's post had more than 40 comments detailing issues with sidewalks, cheap water heaters that needed to be replaced and numerous pictures of flooded backyards and streets.
Many did express satisfaction with their homes.
Tiffany Smith said that, aside from a large trailer advertising the development that's been parked in front of her home for years, she's still happy with her decision to move into the neighborhood.
'Dragged their feet': Crawford discounted the flooding concerns as overreactions, but she said she felt the residents do have a legitimate gripe with how long the development was taking to finish.
Crawford, who has served the borough for 26 years, said she can't recall a developer ever taking so long to complete such a project.
"Most developments are finished in two or three years," she said. "They've dragged their feet horribly."
Bill Briegel, vice president of land for Keystone Custom Homes, said no builder wants to sit on an asset for this long, but it's not necessarily unusual, particularly given the downturn in the housing market shortly after construction on the project began.
Other areas: Municipal staff in Springfield and Manchester townships, both of which have Keystone Custom Homes' developments, said they haven't had any major issues with the developer.
Stewart Olewiler, zoning/planning officer for Manchester Township, said the developer isn't completing public improvements as quickly as residents would like, but he sees that with a lot of developers.
The last few homes in Koller Pointe have taken longer to sell — only five homes have been built in the development since 2014 — because the remaining lots weren't large enough to fit the company's more popular floor plans, Briegel said.
Next spring: Still, even if the last house is slow to sell, Briegel said the company is planning to start the dedication process — in which Keystone Custom Homes completes the necessary public improvements and then hands those areas over to the borough — next spring.
To ensure completion, the borough holds a letter of credit — money held in a bank that the borough could use to complete improvements if the company doesn't finish what it started.
Keystone Custom Homes has about $627,000 in that account, but the borough has stated that the letter of credit must increase to more than $775,000 based on the engineer's most recent assessment, according to Crawford.
There is a disagreement on that price increase — the company is contending the borough has added costs not permitted by the Municipal Planning Code — but neither the borough nor Keystone Custom Homes believe the letter of credit will need to be taken by the borough.
The dedication process typically takes about six months once it begins, according to Briegel.
Homeowners: Jackson said he isn't holding his breath.
"They haven't stuck to their word yet," he said. "They might (finish next spring), but they say the same thing every time (the residents start complaining). ... I'm not just going to go off their word and wait."
The homeowners association saw its largest attendance ever during its meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 30, and Jackson said most of the residents were in agreement that if nothing is done soon, they'll look into pursuing a class-action lawsuit.
"It's been really frustrating because we paid top dollar for these homes," he said, pointing to his $360,000 house. "We're just fed up with (the delays)."