America the Messy Yard Police State

Messy yard cops let things slide during the depression!!!


Chandler subdivisions stall in troubled economy

by Edythe Jensen - Jan. 21, 2009 07:58 AM

The Arizona Republic

Sixteen Chandler subdivisions in varying stages of completion are stalled in this troubled economy. Some have been abandoned by bankrupt builders; others are nearly complete but construction stopped weeks or months ago.

They're forcing city officials to rethink code enforcement policies and to wonder if partially-built houses left out in the weather will ever be salvageable. Those who purchased homes in the lagging neighborhoods are worried about property values, vandalism and who's going to pay the homeowners' association costs.

Neighborhood Services Manager Rick Brzuchalski said increasing numbers of homeowners' associations are calling the city to ask for help removing weeds and enforcing nuisance codes in "ghost town" subdivisions. The cash-strapped municipal government can do little and there's usually no hope of recovering cleanup expenses from developers, he said. Weeds--once looked upon as eyesores--are now considered a potential benefit because they stabilize soil and prevent lung-irritating dust from blowing around abandoned building sites, Brzuchalski said.

Residents like Carol Mahoney who purchased homes in subdivisions before construction stopped are working with neighbors to keep appearances. "We need to sit it out, and I don't think things will turn around immediately," she said. "But if people do a good job maintaining their homes, we'll come out of this. In spite of everything we've been through, I'm delighted with our home and I love the area."

Mahoney lives in the Randall Martin Homes' Village at Dobson Crossing northwest of Arizona Avenue and Ocotillo Road where homes originally sold for about $400,000. She said her homeowners' association recently raised quarterly fees to cover dues that aren't being paid by the former builder. Vacant models have been vandalized and neighbors are concerned about upkeep of empty homes and parcels.

Dave Nakagawara, assistant planning director, said the drastic building slowdown and market conditions are forcing his department to change its relationships with developers. Instead of monitoring projects that were being built "at a breakneck pace . . . our staff is reaching out to developers who have slowed down. We ask about their plans and if there's anything we can do to assist them," he said. In some cases that means wading through disconnected phone numbers, lender ownerships and bankruptcy files. "It's challenging with some subdivisions because of the number of banks involved," Nakagawara said. "It's hard to tell who's steering the ship."

The city is watching abandoned sites to make sure there are no unsafe conditions and will likely have to make a decision in the future if partially built abandoned houses can be salvaged or should be demolished, he said. "We hope things will turn around and when that time comes we have to be prepared."

Daryl Racz, development project administrator for Chandler, monitors new subdivisions and makes sure required infrastructure like roads, water and sewer lines are built to municipal standards. He said work on six in the city stopped following builder bankruptcies and 10 are stalled because of the economic downturn. All are in the southern portion of the city.

The most problematic has been the planned Avian Trails by Charlevoix Homes north east of Lindsay and Chandler Heights roads. Signs promoting homes "starting at $500,000" are still up but the phone numbers on them have been disconnected. Partially completed models are weathering; roads are rocky and incomplete. The site sits next to the city's new Veterans Oasis Park and Environmental Education Center.

Racz said Chandler has fewer stalled subdivisions than many other Valley cities.


America the Messy Yard Police State