Vet's house to be built elsewhere

Homes for Our Troops says it will look at other places for Gittenses
Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens is flanked by his daughter Shawna Gittens, left, and wife Sharon Gittens during a press conference announcing their decision not to build a home in the Knob Hill subdivision, Tuesday, June 28, 2011, in Evans, Ga.

Homes for Our Troops formally announced at a news conference Tuesday that it would not build a home for paralyzed veteran Sean Gittens in Knob Hill subdivision in Evans.

Standing next to the Gittens family at the site where the home would have been built last weekend, the group's founder, John Gonsalves, said he was sad to see an empty lot instead.

Homes for Our Troops has built homes free of charge for more than 100 severely disabled veterans nationwide. Gonsalves said it's the first time construction has been blocked by a homeowners association.

"We know that this in no way is a reflection on the community of Knob Hill and the people that live in here. ... We do this all over the country, and we know that the American people are behind it," Gonsalves said.

He said he would remain in Georgia for a few more days to talk with other developers who have stepped forward.

The Knob Hill Property Owners Association board members did not attend the news conference. The board's president sent his regrets by e-mail, Gonvalves said.

The association had blocked construction of the Gittens home after months of negotiations because it believed the house would lower property values. Homes for Our Troops said it would continue to work to get a design approved, but left the decision up to the family, which currently rents a house in the subdivision.

"I didn't want to put any kind of pressure on the family to think that because we had already bought this lot, that this was the end game, that it had to be here," Gonsalves said. "I couldn't live with my own conscience if I did that. ... They need to feel fine with where it is that we are going to build this home."

Sharon Gittens, Sean's wife, had said Monday that the family decided not to stay in Knob Hill because they did not feel welcome. At the news conference, she said she was ready to put the situation behind her and thanked neighbors who had supported her family.

Asked about the association, she said, "I think if this was important to them, at least one representative from the board would have been here today."

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