Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Owners Get County's Help on Water-Marred Homes

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Owners Get County's Help on Water-Marred Homes

Article excerpt

Byline: R. Michael Anderson, County Line staff writer

When storms spawned by Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne drenched neighborhoods with rain in August and September, streets flooded and yards remained soggy for days. But in one Middleburg neighborhood, the problem was much worse.

Water leaked or seeped through cement block walls of dozens of homes, some not even a year old, in Coppergate Estates off Blanding Boulevard. Carpets were ruined, and walls and ceilings were stained and left crumbling.

The worst part of it was the unhealthy condition their houses were left in by mold and mildew, homeowners told Clay County commissioners in a plea for help last week.

"It is our concern that not only is there property damage, but a risk to residents' health," said Paul Kratz of Carlotta Road in Coppergate Estates. "Anytime you have water intrusion in the walls of a home, you have a serious risk of mold and mildew developing, which has been proven to cause ill health to people."

Kratz, the father of three, said he bought his home in May 2002, while other water-damaged houses in the neighborhood are only a few months old.

Victor Marini of Steelgate Court told commissioners 66 homes in the subdivision had suffered "moderate to severe water problems," including some that had water leak "right through the block walls."

When homeowners complained to the contractor, Maronda Homes, Marini said, they were told to paint their house or put caulk around the doors and windows. These are new or nearly new homes and should not already need a new coat of paint or caulk, he said.

Kratz, Marini and several other Coppergate Estates homeowners appeared at the County Commission meeting seeking help. Kratz said attempts to get Maronda Homes to make whatever repairs are necessary to prevent further moisture damage have failed, which is why he said the group decided to ask the county to intervene.

"We understand our concerns lie with the builder," he said. "But since this problem is so widespread in this development we feel it is in the county's best interest . . . to investigate in detail what appears to be a major construction flaw."

Meanwhile, until the problems have been corrected, they asked the county to impose a ban on any further building permits issued to Maronda Homes.

County Attorney Mark Scruby advised commissioners to give him time to discuss the situation with Maronda's attorney before taking such action. But some commissioners were ready to suspend permits immediately.

"I've heard enough," Commissioner Patrick McGovern said. "We need to put the kibosh on them right away, with 66 examples of alleged shoddy workmanship."

Commissioner Larry Lancaster suggested the county advise Maronda to take immediate steps to "rectify the problem," or face the possibility of being denied construction permits. …

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