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Monument homeowners, developer in dispute over drainage and erosion issues

December 4, 2017 Updated: December 5, 2017 at 5:03 pm
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A developer (Mike Curry w/ Freedom Homes) left a group of residents in Monument high and dry when he dissolved his business with the Secretary of State's Office before he finished all the work required for their development. Now, about 6 or 8 residents who bought upscale town homes from Curry on Bel Lago View are facing $150,000+ in costs. Homeowners Terry Cummings and Chris Park (left to right) talk on Park's patio that was poured just a year ago and has started buckling and sagging on thursday, November 30, 2017. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

At first glance, Bel Lago View is a picturesque cul-de-sac lined with polished, upscale townhomes that frame a vista of shimmering Monument Lake.

But a peek into the backyards of the homes on the west side of the road reveals flaws: a slowly crumbling hillside, drainage issues that have left the area vulnerable to flooding and barren dirt where landscaping should be.

Bel Lago View homeowners say it's unfinished business left behind after the developer dissolved his company with the state and disappeared earlier this year, leaving the residents with nearly $150,000 in costs to complete the work.

The residents say the developer, Mike Curry, an Iowa-based businessman and owner of Freedom Homes Inc., has not responded to repeated calls and emails about the issues with their properties.

"This is just wrong," said Connie Kreft, who lives in one of the homes. "It's morally, ethically wrong that he just walked away."

The homeowners now are trying to force the company into bankruptcy to recover some of the money they say they are owed to remedy the problems - a type of proceeding known as "involuntary bankruptcy."

Curry, who also is president and CEO of a Sioux City IT firm, did not respond to calls and emails from The Gazette asking for comment.

One of his attorneys said in an email that he could not comment on the homeowners' claims because of the pending legal petition, which a Bel Lago View resident filed in September in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Denver.

"We would note that we dispute most, if not all, of the allegations currently being made against Freedom Homes," said Nate Osborn, an attorney with the Colorado-based law firm Montgomery Little & Soran.

Junior and senior students at St. Mary's High school got to see a shark up close, something not usually seen in landlocked Colorado. They were dissecting sharks for the marine biology class. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette) 

The eight units that Freedom Homes built are part of the Meadow at Monument Lake Homeowners Association, which includes 15 units on Bel Lago View. Residents who purchased their homes from Curry said they paid upwards of $350,000.

Chief among their concerns, they say, is that the developer failed to build a three-tiered retaining wall where crews cut into a hill, leaving a slowly-eroding steep slope about 10 feet from several of the homes' back doors. Contractors have estimated the wall - a requirement of the original site plan that the town of Monument approved in 2006 - would cost about $102,000 to build.

There are other problems. Because Curry failed to complete vital grading and drainage work, runoff from the hill pools in residents' backyards when heavy rains come, said Kreft, who paid more than $1,000 to install a sump pump and hosing to help divert the water.

After Curry filed to dissolve his company with the Secretary of State's Office on Feb. 10, Kreft received a letter from one of Curry's attorneys informing her that Freedom Homes was winding down its operations. As advised by the letter, she submitted a claim to Curry listing the issues with her home but said she never heard back from him.

Residents said they described the issues to Curry and one of his attorneys during a September conference call and later emailed the attorney estimates and bills from contractors related to the problems. Ultimately, nothing was done, they said.

Neighbors pointed to other problems: missing flashing from the exterior of the homes, lopsided concrete patios and exposed electrical wiring.

"There were a lot of things promised," said Chris Park, who moved into one of the units last November.

Curry failed to pay a contractor who did some plumbing work needed after a pipe froze, she said. The excavation company has since filed a lien against her home claiming nearly $9,000.

In a letter dated March 1, Curry's attorney offered Park and her then-husband $1,000 if they agreed to not hold Freedom Homes liable for future issues. They turned the money down because the amount wasn't enough to cover the cost of the problems, Park said.

Curry followed others who had tried, unsuccessfully, to develop the site, said Steve Fleischer, an investor who sold the eight vacant lots to Curry several years ago. Fleischer, who lives on Bel Lago View, said he bought his townhome and the lots from Kirkpatrick Bank in 2013 after the previous developer went bankrupt. He had planned to build homes there but found it wouldn't be cost-effective because of the hefty price tag on the retaining wall and an increase in Monument's tap fee, he said.

The debacle has become an expensive affair for the residents and their HOA.

They said they've paid more than $3,000 in legal fees, including the cost of retaining a lawyer to represent them in the bankruptcy proceedings. In a recent legal filing, their lawyer details the roughly $150,000 in expenses that the homeowners contend they are owed, including money to build the retaining wall and nearly $17,000 for landscaping work.

Curry's attorneys have responded with motions to dismiss the petition, arguing that Freedom Homes is not liable for the listed expenses and that some of the items were never brought to Curry's attention.

Claimants involved in involuntary bankruptcy proceedings seldom receive the full amounts they ask for, said the residents' attorney, Randy Torbet. The process is likely to continue into next year and could take months more, said Torbet, a Colorado Springs-based lawyer who specializes in financial issues.

If a judge grants the residents' petition, the court will appoint a trustee to determine if each of their claims is valid. The trustee also would be responsible for assessing and liquidating company's assets to reimburse the residents, he said.

"We're just looking to cover the cost for what we all were buying into," said Terry Cummings, who purchased his home from Curry. "Nothing more."

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Contact Rachel Riley: 636-0108

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