September 21, 2012
Remember the “Too-Tall Townhomes” that Todays Homes built “by mistake” far higher than allowed on the city-approved development plan?
The city ordered the three buildings moved or razed. Instead, Todays Homes and its parent company, Unity Builders Group of Calgary, Canada, collapsed, leaving Bill Sheridan and Tom Fendon and dozens of other surrounding homeowners in crisis.
Now, they fear the buildings could sit and rot as the bank that took ownership, the city and the Regional Building Department sort out who is to blame for the epic failure of the inspection process and who should pay.
“We’re all victims,” said Fendon, 72, a retired Air Force and National Weather Service meteorologist. “We’re all under water.”
Fendon said his townhome, part of the 12-acre Dublin Terrace Townhomes complex — the actual name of the Too Talls — is underwater. And there is little hope their situation will change until the complicated bankruptcies are sorted out and the Too Talls resolved.
There are 56 units in about 15 buildings that are owned and occupied by people like Fendon.
There are three Too Tall buildings with 10 units that are sitting empty. Nine of the units were sold at the time of the collapse. Seven townhomes were move-in ready, some with appliances installed.
One Too Tall is an unfinished shell. In addition, there’s another nearly completed building sitting empty. And there is a building with three furnished models that were used as sales showrooms.
Todays Homes owned all those properties, plus one lot where a foundation was started. The rest of the approximately six acres awaiting development was owned by Springs Creek Construction, a sister company and not a part of Todays Homes bankruptcy.
Now, everything is frozen. Fendon and Sheridan said a court-appointed receiver for Todays Homes warned them at a meeting this week that no developer will touch the project until the Too Talls are razed or removed or a variance is granted by the city to let them remain.
“No one will take on the liability,” Sheridan said. “These could sit and rot for years.”
That limbo will cripple the ability of Fendon or his neighbors in the townhomes to sell.
“Any prospective buyer will have to be told what’s going on and it will scare them away,” Fendon said.
Already, Fendon said, he’s taking a financial beating. He paid $190,000 for his home in March 2011 and a real estate agent recently appraised it for just $160,000. He doubts he’ll be able to sell for what he needs, if at all, so he can relocate to Michigan, as he hoped.
In addition, Fendon and his neighbors have lost their two-year warranties and had to pay to finish landscaping.
Sheridan suspects his single-family home on Whereabout Court, just across the fence and dwarfed by the Too Talls, has lost upwards of $50,000 in value.
The men said the receiver doubts the bank that now owns the buildings will pay to tear the Too Talls down, estimated to cost more than $300,000. Nor will it pay to move them because that would cost twice as much.
Sheridan said folks in single-family homes on his side of the fence are discouraged because they simply want the buildings to go away.
“Blow them up,” he said. “That’s always been our position.”
Fendon and his neighbors wrote Mayor Steve Bach and the City Council earlier this month asking for help, warning of “financial devastation” if lawmakers don’t intervene.
Personally, I think the bank and city ought to write checks to the handful of homeowners along the fence for their lost equity and emotional distress. Any homeowner trying to sell, like Fendon, also deserves lost-equity compensation.
The Too Talls ought to be granted a variance so a new developer can take over and construction can resume on lower-profile buildings, as originally approved.
And I think someone at City Hall and Regional Building needs to be held accountable for this entire fiasco.