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.

Comments (88) Add comment
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Taylor B
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Taylor B 06/23/11 - 08:30 pm
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Jesus would also need a

Jesus would also need a permit, and cut that hippie hair, right?

SojournerL
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SojournerL 06/23/11 - 08:38 pm
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Well let's see; If "the

Well let's see; If "the members" are so concerned with this house being too small, perhaps they could all get together and make it bigger. Or, perhaps they could leave their fancy houses. One person from each of these houses just go and do a tour in military service to keep the war zone somewhere other than in that fancy neighborhood. Reality check here; if our military does not keep the war somewhere else - putting each person who serves between the people who want to bring it into these neighborhoods and the people living there - that is exactly what will happen. So, be part of the solution one way or another.

Smoke On The Water
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Smoke On The Water 06/23/11 - 08:51 pm
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At first I was on the side of

At first I was on the side of the association since I believe rules are rules but after reading that the neighborhood documents state that a house has to be at 2700 sq.ft. then the people that decided to go larger are SOL,I believe this needs to go to court. This is the reason I would have nothing to do with a neighborhood that has an association they are all out of their minds.A friend moved from one due to problems right into another one and now catching hell from that neighborhood association.

SojournerL
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SojournerL 06/23/11 - 09:13 pm
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It makes me wonder, just how

It makes me wonder, just how involved am I in the lives of my own neighbors? Of my own neighborhood? Pointing my finger at someone else aims three more fingers right back at me. Things are not always what they initially appear to be and usually there is a solution if those involved choose to find it.

wheelman2132
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wheelman2132 06/23/11 - 10:41 pm
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To the people in Knob Hill

To the people in Knob Hill who decided to disrespect this hero and all vets. We are not speaking to all home owners only those involved in this deplorable decision. The association members who are making these decisions and thier attorney will find this mistake costly. We intend to retrieve your names and will take action on all of your businesses and set constant pickets and demonstrations at them. This is not a threat but a legal option of the first amendment rights to take action to express our distaste for your actions it will "follow the rules" and you all can live with it. This action has been voted on by our members and we are not small in numbers. We hope you all can afford to keep your homes in Knob Hill with such a large decline in income. You have no compassion for others just your cash we intend to remove what we can from what will hurt you most your pocket book. Your pocket book is your heart and you are about to find out that your money can be taken.
If we get people like you out of Knob Hill maybe the nickname of Snob Hill will go with you. Look for us we will soon be having our turn.

Glad.I.Moved
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Glad.I.Moved 06/24/11 - 12:29 am
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Get over yourself Knob Hill!

Get over yourself Knob Hill! I lived there for 6 years and while I enjoyed my home the neighborhood is not "all that and a bag of chips" which you seem to think. Maybe you folks complaining about this family need to spend more time looking after your own family members so that residents don't have to pick up the trash they throw from their car windows, try to ignore their used condoms on the walking paths, dodge the underage golf cart drivers or call the police to report their acts of vandalism then hope there is no retaliatory damage to our own homes. And yes, I have personal knowledge of each of these types of incidents, and then some! If I still lived there I'd take the Gittens family over many residents any day!

Igghead
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Igghead 06/24/11 - 01:26 am
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I usually don't post here.

I usually don't post here. But being an active military member currently serving in Afghanistan, this story struck a nerve. Here is the statement from Homes For Our Troops in response to the decision made by the Board of Directors of Knob Hill. It's a bit of a read, but it gives a bit of insight to those seeking details. If this is a re-post, my apologies.

Taunton, Mass. (June 23, 2011) – Homes for Our Troops President and Founder John Gonsalves has issued the following statement regarding the refusal of the Board of Directors of the Knob Hill Property Owners Association to permit construction to begin on a new home for SFC Sean Gittens, a severely injured combat veteran:

Homes for Our Troops is extremely grateful for the outpouring of support we have received since learning of the disappointing reversal of approval of the Knob Hill Property Owners Association to build a specially adapted home for Army SFC Sean Gittens and his family, in their community.

Homes for Our Troops has attempted good faith negotiating with the Association since we purchased land in their subdivision last December. We went to significant lengths to satisfy conditions imposed on the build to gain approval, and were completely surprised by the reversal of approval four days before construction was to begin on the home. It is clear from communications we have received from residents in Knob Hill that the position their Board of Directors took is not shared by all the home owners, and we know there are many good people who live in Knob Hill who are happy to have the Gittens family as neighbors.

Homes for Our Troops would like to clear up several misstatements of fact about the situation:

The home fully complies with the Association’s covenants. We build 2,700 square foot homes across the country and give them mortgage free to severely injured veterans. Our home is the same size as a number of other homes in this subdivision and meets the minimum 2,700 square footage specifications listed in other Association documents.

The siding for our planned home is brick, as requested by the association and in keeping with the requirements of the neighborhood. The brick and other materials were part of the drawings approved by the Association’s President.

We have responded to every request made by the Board of Directors and if the Gittens family wishes to pursue having this home built in Knob Hill, we will continue to do so as long as requests are fair and just and made in good faith.

This home for SFC Gittens and his family was approved by email on June 2 by Knob Hill Home Owners Association president Rick Trump. This decision was subsequently reversed around June 9-10 for vague reasons. And this past Monday, four days before we were to begin construction, we were told that our plans were not accepted and that we would have to start the approval process from the beginning. We find this questionable given the numerous adaptations we have made to our plans over the last few months and the size of existing homes in the subdivision.

Homes for Our Troops has built and launched construction on over 100 specially adapted homes for severely injured veterans in over 30 states. We understand how to build a home for a severely injured veteran and know what it takes to marry these requirements with the needs of a local community. We are grateful for the many general contractors, homeowners associations and patriotic neighbors in communities across this country who have not only accepted these severely injured veterans and their families, but have welcomed them with open arms.

The ultimate goal of this process is to find a place to construct a home that is comfortable for SFC Gittens and his family, and restores some of the freedom and independence they lost in their service to our country. We are confident that will be the outcome, one that SFC Gittens and his family so deserve.

mable8
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mable8 06/24/11 - 08:02 am
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Knob Hill? House is "too

Knob Hill? House is "too small and doesn't fit"? The family already lives in the area? Well, SNOB HILL, not everyone wants, nor needs the over-sized homes some folks bulid for prestiege. If the family really does live there and you have "no qualms" with them, what's the problem? Their income level too small? Truth is, if any one of you current residents became as seriously ill as this hero did, you would go into foreclosure and fast because you really don't have the money to back up your mouth. Let this family have their home built and be greatful you have such a good neighbor.

stevea
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stevea 06/29/11 - 08:26 am
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Brad OwensThursday, "How many

Brad OwensThursday, "How many square feet would Jesus build?"

4500 sq/ft colonial with a swimming pool.

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