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Detention basin brings Villas at Newtown residents to officials

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Homeowners at the Villas of Newtown thought they were finally going to see some results. The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors had the residents’ dispute with builder McGrath Homes on the agenda for its Aug. 14 meeting.

But alas, it was not to be.

At the last minute, the township pulled the matter from the schedule.

At issue is a detention basin the homeowners say is not draining properly, if at all.

“The basin is supposed to drain, dry and remain dry 72 hours after a (stormwater) runoff event,” said Villas of Newtown President William Posner. “It does not do that.”

According to Posner, in mid-July, Township Solicitor David Sander sent McGrath a “final letter” saying this was the municipality’s last attempt to persuade the builder to complete the improvements in the development, “most notably, the basin.”

The letter further states that if the builder did not comply with the terms of the development agreement by July 31, the township would take action to draw down the financial security it needs to complete the improvements on its own and send the bill for doing so to McGrath Homes.

“We were thrilled,” said Posner, of the homeowners’ feelings when they heard the news of the letter.

“Finally, someone was giving McGrath the final deadline.”

“That deadline came and went.”

According to Posner, the item was pulled from the agenda because of some recent maintenance activity at the basin. On Monday, Aug. 12, the HOA president received an email from Township Manager Micah Lewis stating that “work on site has commenced in the area of the basin.”

The email stated further that the item would be removed from the agenda until the township learned what work had been done and if it was done to the satisfaction of the engineer.

“It was disappointing to many of us that the item would be removed from the agenda solely because there was the beginning of some activity, the nature and extent of which we do not know and apparently (the township) does not know,” said Posner.

“And this on something that should have been completed some time ago rather than started just now.”

Posner says he and some other residents spotted men working recently on the basin. He says the workers reported they were employed by CVA Utility Contractors and admitted only to pumping water out of the detention basin.

“Our residents have concerns about this basin over its function,” said Posner. “They also have serious aesthetic concerns – about the way it looks.”

Posner admitted that not all the Villas residents think the basin fails the eye test.

“Some people think its looks great. Other people think it’s a ditch,” he said.

A year ago, McGrath asked the township for punchlists describing the work that needed to be done to compete Phase I and Phase II of the development. According to Posner, the lists included sidewalk construction, the erection of a fence and improvements to the basin.

Plans for revisions to the outlet structure of the basin were submitted in mid-November 2018 with the work scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

“Dec, 31, 2018 comes and goes and nothing has been done,” said Posner.

The Villas of Newtown is a 55-and-older community where the cost of housing starts at $600,000 and goes up from there. In January 2017, McGrath was granted permission to add six more units in a deal that was designed to give the developer enough cash flow to make improvements to the historic farmhouse located near the entrance to the community.

“With that approval, those six units were built, the farmhouse was restored and those units were sold for approximately $650,000 apiece,” said Villas resident Fred Devesa.

“Four million plus comes in as revenue.

“Instead of completing the units that he built and completing the rest of the common improvements, McGrath Homes left our community and went on to build another development.

“That’s not only unacceptable to us, it should be unacceptable to the township.”

Villas resident James Hilldrew says the outlet pipe through which the basin drains isn’t large enough to accommodate the amount of rainwater that comes into it. He says the pipe is only 3 1/2 inches wide, though that hasn’t been confirmed.

“I don’t know what the water flow designs were like and what the assumptions were that went into the calculations but I can assure you that that’s going to be a problem forever because the line is inadequate.”

Posner urged the supervisors to slate the item on the agenda for its next meeting.

“Do not leave this an open item,” he implored. “Declare tonight that this will be on the agenda for Sept. 11. Send that message to our builder.”

Posner says he has the signatures of 90 residents on a petition supporting his complaint with McGrath Homes.


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