Hawk Ridge Farm dwellers swamped with difficulties

April 18, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

The day Rose Ann Fischer moved into her $247,000 dream house in Sykesville she was reduced to tears, she said. They weren't tears of joy.

Last summer, her family selected a lot in Hawk Ridge Farm

subdivision, one of several Powers Homes developments in Carroll County. While she packed at her home in New Jersey, she envisioned her two children playing in the grassy back yard of their new home.

"I loved the model when I saw it, and I wouldn't look anywhere else," she said.

Five months after moving into the house on Caracara Court, the only vision she has from her kitchen window is a muddy expanse leading to a huge mound of dirt. The children have placed their little chairs on the back porch, but their swing set and bikes remain in storage. They have no place to play.

"The day we moved in last November it was raining and our problems began," she said.

The Fischers live in dread of each storm, knowing downpours mean they will be baling out their basement.

"Every rain fills up the window wells around the basement and the water runs in like a faucet," she said.

She points to the basement floor stained with mud that flowed in from the window, dripped down behind newly hung drywall and ended on the concrete floor.

"I know the insulation behind the wall is ruined and imagine if I had carpeting down here," she said.

Constant wet weather and Ms. Fischer's perception that Powers Homes is indifferent to her plight have driven her to consider posting "Don't buy here" signs in front of the house. She has contacted a real estate agent who told her the house in its present condition would never sell, she said.

Her neighbors on Caracara Court have similar water and mud problems. "Every rain means I spend time with a wet vac, and usually that's all day," Bill Brown said. "We get up to an inch and a half of water in the basement."

Friday's rain produced the usual large puddle in a crawl space. Water also seeped into other areas of his basement. Mr. Brown said the grading on his quarter-acre lot is "bad" and a sump pump discharges water right next to a window well.

"When I moved here last fall my back yard was flat," he said. "Now it has all sunk."

Shoddy workmanship and poor grading are at the root of all the problems, Ms. Fischer said. She lists complaints from cracked flooring to a portion of the family room ceiling that collapsed because no trap had been placed in the upstairs shower.

"About 90 percent of all water problems in a basement are the result of grading," said Jeffrey B. Powers, vice president of Powers Homes and president of the county Homebuilders Association.

"Homes delivered in winter can't be seeded and graded right away, but we are committed to fixing drainage problems," he said.

The ground is so saturated from record rainfalls, Mr. Powers said, that grading is difficult, if not impossible. He asked homeowners for patience. "This is basically a scheduling and weather issue," he said.

Mr. Powers, who has built several hundred homes in the county since 1987, has about 20 lots to seed this spring. He said he will complete the work in order of settlement on those homes.

Although Ann Marie Osinga, a member of the Sykesville Planning Commission, moved into her Hawk Ridge Farm home a month after the Fischers, her lot was seeded and graded April 9. Her home is next to the builder's model.

To compound the residents' complaints, the builder has stockpiled dirt in unsightly 25-foot mounds behind their homes. The homeowners say the mounds are on their lots.

"They saw dirt piles when they looked at their base lots" before the houses were built, Mr. Powers said. "We said it was a temporary situation but they would probably be there when they moved in. I even consider them unsightly eyesores, and we will remove them as soon as we can."

Ms. Fischer and Mr. Brown said they saw no large piles of dirt on the lots when they bought them. "All that dirt is from our foundations," said Mr. Brown, who has a photo of his original -- flat -- lot. "The dirt hills are interfering with our yards now."

Despite silt fencing, dirt from the stockpiles makes its way into yards. Mr. Brown's chain-link fencing is sinking into the mud. "The rain washes mud from those hills right down onto our property," Ms. Fischer said.

The homeowners said the builders have met every complaint with "we'll take care of it in the spring." They are "using rain as an excuse," Ms. Fischer said.

"They put the window wells in wrong and they have to fix them," she said.

The wells need 10 to 12 inches of stone for proper drainage, she said. The builders used only about two inches.

"The county has no code for thickness of stone," said Mike Maring, deputy chief of the code office, who has spent much time at Hawk Ridge Farm sites. "It is the contractor's responsibility."

Mr. Maring said ground water, not rain water, is causing the leaks. More stone would help, he said.

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