Neighbors pull plug on injured vet's home

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An Evans neighborhood association has blocked a group that was prepared to build a home free of charge for a local veteran who was injured in Iraq.

Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens was injured in Afghanistan.   Special
Special
Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens was injured in Afghanistan.

Have more information?

Know something about the Knob Hill situation? Live in the area and wish to comment? Contact reporter Carole Hawkins with more information at carole.hawkins@augustachronicle.com.

The homebuilding group, Homes for Our Troops, says Knob Hill Property Owners Association approved the home's design June 2 but reversed its decision in a later meeting.

A member of the association, however, says the group got only a conditional approval, pending a review of its design; the neighborhood is carefully protected by building covenants, and the final design did not fit.

Homes for Our Troops -- a national organization that has built or remodeled homes for more than 100 severely injured veterans -- had planned to build a house for Army Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens and his family this weekend. Gittens suffered concussive head injuries while serving in Iraq. After he returned home, a brain aneurysm caused a stroke that left him partially paralyzed.

Homes for Our Troops worked for four months with the Knob Hill Property Owners Association to get the design approved, according to John Gonsalves, the group's founder. But at an association meeting, members said the 2,700-square-foot home was too small and neighbors thought it would bring property values down, Gonsalves said. A cease-and-desist order was issued as the site was being prepared last week.

"We've done everything they've asked. For them to do this at the last minute is very disturbing," he said. "I don't think there's a community in America that shouldn't embrace this family after what they've sacrificed. No one deserves it more."

But owners association member Tom Rogers said Homes for Our Troops did not do everything asked of it. The group did not have written approval from the association's architectural review board, but negotiated through e-mail only.

"What's important to understand is the family already lives here. They're a great family. We have no qualms with them," Rogers said. "The problem is, that street down there has 5,000-square-foot homes all the way up and down the street there. ... It just doesn't fit. That's the whole issue."

Gonsalves said his team checked association documents, which do recommend that at least 2,700-square-foot houses be built, but Rogers said homeowners in that section built much larger homes.

"We want to protect our homes that we worked hard to achieve, and we want everyone to be treated equally," Rogers said. "These people will have to go through the same process as everyone else did."

Correction

Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens was injured in Iraq. Due to a reporter's error an earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the country where Gittens was deployed.

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mtxbass1
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mtxbass1 06/23/11 - 09:10 am
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I love how so many of you are

I love how so many of you are so quick to blame the Knob Hill residents themselves, when a majority of them likely had no idea that this decision had been made without their input. Blame the board who doesn't inform the homeowners.

leoswife
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leoswife 06/23/11 - 09:11 am
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Yes, he has another house in

Yes, he has another house in the neighborhood, but the new house is handicapped equipped. trekelite--since they were beginning to prepare the site they would already have a permit from the county. Property values will not fall because someone builds a house that is at least the minimum square footage that is required in the subdivision covenants. I would build somewhere else---who wants neighbors like these people?

Willow Bailey
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Willow Bailey 06/23/11 - 09:17 am
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Knob Hill is behind on their

Knob Hill is behind on their thinking; 5,000 square foot barns are passé.
Their concern should be that the footage met the bylaw requirements and that the home is aesthetically appealing.This is very typical of homeowner associations. I suggest an attorney and a lawsuit for Knob Hill Assoc. to purchase the veteran's lot.

TheArmyWife
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TheArmyWife 06/23/11 - 09:17 am
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Wow, this is going to be an

Wow, this is going to be an interesting story for a long time. AC, please keep us all posted on new developments. If that was my HOA, I'd be worried about legal bills getting racked up.
To the wonderful Gittens family, hold your heads high, you are good people!

iam4him
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iam4him 06/23/11 - 09:22 am
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I am a homeowner in this

I am a homeowner in this subdivision. I had no idea this was going on. Most of us did not. WE are not snobs. He lives here already, there are other disabled people in the neighborhood and at least one of them is similarly disabled. His home has been somewhat modified for his care. Please know the we want the Gittens here. This is not a matter of prejudice or anything else. Follow the rules. Build the house and stop the witch hunt against the residents.

caddie160
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caddie160 06/23/11 - 09:24 am
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Not one poster knows the

Not one poster knows the details....this was an attempt to make the Knob Hill subdivision look bad so the builder could push through a house that doesnt meet neighborhood covenants. The square footage is only one issue with the structure there are many other issues as well. Anyone that has ever built a house in a subdivision with covenants understand you cant build anything you want to with any materials you want to.

Beck Tears
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Beck Tears 06/23/11 - 09:24 am
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Everyone hear that? Knob Hill

Everyone hear that? Knob Hill is a well to do neighborhood, and it can't afford to have an injured Veteran in their community. It will look bad having his wife mow the yard all the time, since Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens is partially paralyzed from injuries sustained from action in Afghanistan. Can you imagine trying to explain to your guests why a house is different- modified for a more functional living standard for Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens and his family? Who has that kind of time? Why should anyone in Knob Hill sacrifice anything for Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens? It's not like him or his family risked anything, and lost something!!! Knob Hill dictators are true American patriots, putting their greed above all else!! That was a close call to the folks of Knob Hill. Can you imagine the suffering the community would have to suffer through? Watching their HD TV knowing there is a 2,700 sq ft house in nearby, possibly on their street?! The audacity!! Standing ovation to rmajor and company!! Well done patriots!!

caddie160
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caddie160 06/23/11 - 09:30 am
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again..... know the details

again..... know the details

louisrose
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louisrose 06/23/11 - 09:31 am
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"Homes for Our Troops" should

"Homes for Our Troops" should just shut up, stop whining and build the veteran a bigger house. Or put him in a neighborhood where there are smaller houses. I am veteran, and we need to do more for our injured veterans lots more. But this is just stupid.

noway
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noway 06/23/11 - 09:37 am
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For some reason this doesn't

For some reason this doesn't surprise me, it sickens me. Your home value is going to go down. Really? Why do you think you have the freedom to work and have the wealth that you do? OUR MILITARY. Snob Hill people probably all claim to be bit patriots too...this is embarrassing and exactly why I live in Richmond County. There is no dollar amount worth what our men and women have had to go through over these past several years. Disgusting.

hope7
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hope7 06/23/11 - 09:41 am
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Knob Hill, The Hill, what the

Knob Hill, The Hill, what the hill is wrong with these people? Oh yea, "elitetiveness", not a word I'm sure. Do the RIGHT thing dangit,as these are our service men and women. Don't they get the best of our best no matter what? Work it out T Rogers and association. Make us all more proud to be an American!

colcores
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colcores 06/23/11 - 09:42 am
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Does he rent or own the home

Does he rent or own the home he currently lives in? Knob Hill residents it is time that you sit your HOA Board of Directors down and talk the facts to them. They have just lowered your home values. If the square footage is not the issue and it can't be because the footage meets the HOA requirements, then what is the actual issue? The Board of Directors need to be honest and tell the truth not only to the residents of Knob Hill but to the residents of CC because this certainly is very negative advertising for the whole county. Knob Hill will always be remembered as the first place in the WHOLE COUNTRY (the United States of America) that has denied a disabled veteran the opportunity to have a home built under this program.

Beck Tears
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Beck Tears 06/23/11 - 09:45 am
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You're right, this is stupid

You're right, this is stupid louisrose. That injured veteran and his family should go find a worse neighborhood to live. Even though the Homes for Our Troops met square footage minimums, clearly the modified home might ruin another persons investment. I think all injured veterans should learn this lesson before becoming wounded overseas. Selfish veterans.

dichotomy
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dichotomy 06/23/11 - 09:49 am
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caddie160 - "again..... know

caddie160 - "again..... know the details"

Okay, you obviously know the details. Tell us what they are. So far it looks like 2700 sq. ft. meets the HOA rules for that neighborhood. If there is more to tell then TELL IT 'cause so far you are losing this PR battle badly. I've got little sympathy for folks who build a 5000 sq. ft. house in a 2700 sq. ft. minimum neighborhood.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 06/23/11 - 09:52 am
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I see they removed my

I see they removed my post...just as well I guess..

edubb
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edubb 06/23/11 - 09:56 am
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Unbelievable how this man is

Unbelievable how this man is being treated. I am sure Homes For Our Troops knows how to work with Homeowner Associations, they do this type of stuff all around the counrty, but when they get to Augusta, some kind of way Homes For Our Troops forgot how to run their business and screwed up everything so Tom Rogers turned them down. I can't wait to see Tom Rogers on CNN's Ridiculist... I am emailing CNN asap. This so disrepectful to our veterans and I almost joined the Marines...man

MJStinson
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MJStinson 06/23/11 - 10:29 am
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Ridiculous. And sadly, not

Ridiculous. And sadly, not all that shocking. Americans choosing property values over human decency. p.s. your home values would really suck if men and women didn't put their lives on the line to protect our freedom.

HipHopGrandma
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HipHopGrandma 06/23/11 - 10:30 am
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Someone should tell the

Someone should tell the people in that neighborhood that God doesn't like ugly. As my mother always explained to me growing up, it's one thing to have pride in things that you've managed to attain. But remember that it only takes one fire, one hurricane, one tornado, one flood to lose all that you've got so much "pride" in. I'd much rather live next door to a 2700 square foot home that houses a man who gave his health in the name of this country than to live next to Miss Anne and her 5000 square foot home with her nose so far up in the air that she'll drown when it rains. Shame on ALL of you.

unbiased_propaganda
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unbiased_propaganda 06/23/11 - 10:35 am
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I'm sorry to say that this

I'm sorry to say that this doesn't surprise me one bit that a homeowner's association did something like this! The HOA for my townhome is the same way - a few (sometimes just one) people making decisions for all the homeowners without asking or notifying anyone about it.

csrareader
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csrareader 06/23/11 - 11:32 am
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First Springlakes residents

First Springlakes residents whined so much that Augusta Prep couldn't install lights for their football stadium. Now, the Knob Hill residents won't let someone build a FREE home for a disabled veteran. Dumb, dumb. dumb.

Boogaloo
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Boogaloo 06/23/11 - 10:46 am
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Shades of coming back from

Shades of coming back from Vietnam and being spit at.

dougk
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dougk 06/23/11 - 10:46 am
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This does not make the
Unpublished

This does not make the Augusta area look very "cool."

iLove
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iLove 06/23/11 - 10:58 am
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Money is more important than
Unpublished

Money is more important than doing whats right. SMH

THANKS SGT. GITTENS FOR ALL YOU HAVE DONE! MAY GOD CONTIUNE TO BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU IN HIS GRACE!

You know me, uh, would this happen if the guy wasn't black? Seriously?

Remember how upset people were @ Earnie Graham from EMHE. Many of the same posters who support Army Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens expressed their feelings about how Ms. Graham should not have had the home built for her.

Her service to the community, just as this man's service to the community, are one in the same, if you asked me. . . but who did?

I love the support for the Gittens Family, though. Only if it were the same for Graham Family.

Girl Scouts vs. Military ...hmm....

caylasmommy
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caylasmommy 06/23/11 - 10:59 am
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I'm confused... if the family

I'm confused... if the family is already residing in that neighborhood, why build a new house? Why not rennovate the existing one to make it fit his needs? I think it is ridiculous that the neighborhood won't let them build, but why build if you don't have to?

TheArmyWife
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TheArmyWife 06/23/11 - 10:59 am
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I agree that creating a 5000

I agree that creating a 5000 sq ft home is not the answer, the financial burden of utilities and taxes is not worth it to the family (I would imagine). Look how many times Extreme Home Makeover families struggle because of that issue of excess just for the "wow" factor. Also, it is Augusta Prep that wants lights, I believe Augusta Christian has them...just like everywhere else but Prep. Take note families seeking homes...Spring Lake and Knob Hill.

swopslash
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swopslash 06/23/11 - 11:00 am
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In my experience, members of

In my experience, members of these associations are generally the elderly or the neighborhood "know it alls". It's certainly not a Democracy in any sense of the word...while the rest of the Knob Hill families are working and taking care of the bills and the children, that old man always screaming at neighborhood kids about being on his lawn and that snobbish lady down the street everyone avoids are deciding what color your shutters should be. Man, this really makes me....oops, time for my TV show. Peace.

SanityRules
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SanityRules 06/23/11 - 11:05 am
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I live in a neighborhood with

I live in a neighborhood with similar restrictive covenants. I don't see a minimum sq ft requirement in the bylaws for Knob Hill, but the design does have to be approved. If they recommend at least a 2,700 sq ft house in the association documents and everyone so far has decided to go for double, that doesn't rewrite the bylaws or recommendations. If they want to add a requirement to the bylaws, they should have that option (with approval from the current homeowners), but it isn't there.

If they've been working with Knob Hill on the plans and have met the conditions to have it approved, the approval should not have been overturned when the existing homeowners squawked.

It costs more to live in a larger home (as emergencyfan pointed out), so it is "greener" and more sustainable for any family to live in a more moderately-sized home. 2,700 sq ft is still a fairly large house.

Just one question: Would there even be a news story here if it did not feature a wounded veteran?

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 06/23/11 - 11:09 am
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Becks Tears, you are batting

Becks Tears, you are batting 1000 so far today.

100% dead on and I agree 100%

edubb
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edubb 06/23/11 - 11:28 am
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I just sent this story to

I just sent this story to CNN.. I hope Tom Rogers and Knob Hill gets some National Attention..

emergencyfan
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emergencyfan 06/23/11 - 11:35 am
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HOA's are a law unto

HOA's are a law unto themselves.

As for the residents, I'm pretty sure you elect some (if not all) of your HOA officials. I suggest you strongly reconsider who you vote for next time. In fact, if this situation REALLY bothered you, you would be too busy phoning your HOA president and expressing your displeasure to waste time posting how innocent and uninformed you were/are.

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