Neighborhood's decision upsets wife

Just days after burying her father, Sharon Gittens said she was saddened again this week when she learned construction on a new home for her disabled veteran husband and their children was blocked by the neighborhood property owners' association.

"We're all just very disappointed," Gittens said Thursday, adding she found out about the problem late Tuesday.

"We got real excited when we saw that they cleared the lot, cut the trees down and everything, and started doing some work," she said.

The homebuilding group, Homes for Our Troops, worked with the Knob Hill Property Owners Association for about a year planning the home to be built free for Gittens' husband, Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens. He was injured during his third tour of duty in Iraq about three years ago.

While deployed, Gittens said her husband suffered multiple concussive head traumas from improvised explosive devices. After returning home, a brain aneurysm caused a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak.

Homes for Our Troops -- a national organization that builds and remodels adapted homes for severely injured veterans -- purchased a lot at 1475 Knob Hill Circle, not far from the home the family has rented for nearly a year on Cornerstone Place.

The association gave "conditional approval" on June 2 pending a review of the home design, according to an association member.

That decision was overturned at a later meeting because the 2,700-square-foot home was too small and neighbors thought it would bring down property values, said John Gonsalves, the founder of Homes for Our Troops.

Crews graded the lot and were preparing to pour the home's foundation when they were served last week with a cease-and-desist order.

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," Rogers said. "They're a great family. We have no qualms with them. 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."

According to county tax maps, the home directly across from the corner lot purchased for the Gittens boasts a 3,310-square-foot home. Only a few homes nearby on Knob Hill Circle are larger than 4,000 square feet. Most of the 55 homes on the street are between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet.

Four homes on the street are described as less than 3,000 square feet, while five are about 5,000 square feet.

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

"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."

Neighborhood says vet's home design not approved
Neighbors pull plug on injured vet's home
A Hill of a problem
Homes For Our Troops Profile on SFC Sean Gittens
Homes For Our Troops website