Sunday, November 01, 2009

OC Scoopin' the Poop at Raven Rock . . .

This story has been "percolating" beneath the surface for some time with almost no coverage from Utica-Rome based media [You have to ask yourself, "Why?"], but, fortunately, News10Now out of Syracuse has been following it for a long time.

Home owners in Raven Rock Estates in Lee have alleged numerous problems with their newly constructed duplex homes that they purchased from Legend Developers LLC. In May '08 a state review board denied a fire-code variance for inadequate fire-walls between units. Later that summer, the developer acknowledged violations, which totaled 116, signed a Consent Order with the OC Health Dept., and promised to fix the violations by Sept. 30 in return for the County waiving most of a $118,000 fine. Time passed, but by November '08, residents were still frustrated. However, the County apparently felt that things were progressing, and did not seem to feel there was a problem.
[OCHD Attorney] Miga says he understands the residents are frustrated, but the health department has done its job to oversee what it is supposed to in its jurisdiction.

"They have met their deadlines and we have reviewed everything. The conditional approval either has gone out or is about to go out. I don't anticipate that there's going to be any additional fines," Miga said "They have paid their filing fees. They've paid a $5,000 fine. And they've have spent a number of dollars in providing a series of maps until we had it right. Both the plat mat and the as built." . . .
Moving forward, the county health department said it's going to give the developers conditional approval and the final map from the developers must be approved by the county health department and the Town of Lee planning department.
According to Attorney Paul Longeretta for the residents:
"My clients do not have a complaint against the Oneida County Health Department. I want to be very clear about that. All they're asking is that the county enforces this agreement that was voluntarily entered into with the developer," said Longeretta.
But that was November, 2008. With November 2009 upon us, Raven Rock residents have now filed a notice of claim against Oneida County.
Home owners are demanding compensation from the county because they say leaders knowingly allowed developers to sell the houses as three bedroom homes, even though they had only been approved and equipped with septic tanks large enough for two.
What happened?

In January, 2009, the County Director of Environmental Health rejected a request to meet with the residents' counsel and transmitted a copy of the "Conditions of Approval" of Raven Rock "as built." (Read the letter . . . there is a "don't annoy me" tone.)

Some of the problems at Raven Rock involved allegedly undersized septic tanks. Sewage has reportedly backed up into showers and sinks. Per NYS regulations, the number of bedrooms is a factor in determining the proper size of a septic tank for a home. Three bedroom homes require a tank with a capacity of 1250 gallons, but homes with fewer bedrooms and without other accouterments such as garbage grinders can get away with a 1000 gallon tank.

In Raven Rock the homes reportedly had been built with 1,000 gallon tanks installed. So the solution here would be to increase the size of the tanks . . . Right? Instead the County has chosen to, in effect, play ostrich and decrease the number of bedrooms it would recognize in each home to make the installed 1000 gallon tanks the correct size. How did it get away with this? See this wording in Condition 12.

The County apparently got the developer's engineer to certify that the constructed homes only had 1 or 2 bedrooms.

The residents must have been surprised to hear this because they had purchased 3 bedroom units, as shown on their floor plans. The Town of Lee should have been surprised because the Town approved of the project as consisting of 17 duplexes with each unit containing 3 bedrooms -- not 1 or 2. The County should have been surprised as well because the Lee approval was filed with the County Clerk in 2004.

It simply is not believable that the County did not know that three bedroom units were built. But now the County accepts a "certification" that makes the problem go away??? Sounds like subornation of perjury to me.

To observers of the shenanigans in Oneida County over many years, this nonsense is not surprising -- but it still is disgusting. The "conditions of approval" were just B.S. , making things more difficult for the homeowners and easier for apparently well-connected developers.

Some county legislators have caught on. Chad Davis recently issued a press release on this fiasco. Unfortunately, a majority of the county legislators on the Public Health Committee, led by the Republican Chairman David Wilcox, don't care to pursue this matter further and have not responded to residents' or Mr. Davis' questions.

Like so many problems around here, even when it comes to violations of the law, it is easier for government leaders to dish out a line of B.S. and pretend there is nothing wrong rather than solve problems. It also appears to be easier for local media to ignore these stories -- reporting them only when unavoidable or when they favor the politicians that the media favor -- than to get to the bottom of these situations. Local media's laziness enables the laziness of our government's leaders ... or worse. The public, too, is at fault, like lemmings voting along party lines, or ethnicity, or neighborhood friendships rather than where candidates stand on the issues -- if the public even knows what the issues are, if the candidates have even formulated a position and if we are lucky to have them aired. As usual, private individuals wind up paying for the malfeasance, but if one is not affected, ignorance is bliss. Government leaders, the media, and the public can only play ostrich for so long.

When will they stop scoopin' the poop?


Anonymous said...

Thank goodness someone of the new media is doing some real reporting; the old sure does not. Perhaps you will force them.

Anonymous said...

So where was the codes inspectors during all the construction?? Seems like it was purposely overlooked. Certificate of occupancies must have been issued by someone.

Anonymous said...

They will not "scoopin the poop" when they are in jail, which is where most of O.C. politicians belong. And the news media around here is no better, for failing the citizens of this county in not reporting the shenanigans of the aformentioned.

Jumpin Jack Flash said...

Looks to be like that Gilmore individual too, is an "idiot" of sorts.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if new septic systems have since been installed? Is the poop still backing up? Did this only effect just the homeowners who are suing or did it effect the rest of the property owners? If the tanks weren't replaced or have failed, then why haven't the Certificates of Occupancy been revoked. Lots of questions here.

The size of the septic tank is really not the issue here. If sewage was backing up, then the drainage fields or drywells were inadequetly sized. The septic tanks just hold the poop. If there is a backup, it is the drainage field or undersized drywell that is the cause. 250 extra gallons would not make a difference. Yep, something stinks here - but I'm not sold on the lawsuit by the property owners just yet. More facts please.

One thing is for sure, I wouldn't buy a home there.

Anonymous said...

Wait till the banks that issued the mortgages, not to mention the insurance companies that may be hit with claims get wind of this crap. Gonna be especially interesting when the banks find out that they may have issued mortgages for homes with inadequate septic systems. What the definition of fraud?

Strikeslip said...

Lots of good questions . . . and if I get the answers I will post them. I don't believe that everyone is having problems because per News10Now some people are happy with their homes. I'm sure that where there might be problems, it would be more complicated than a mere mismatch between the number of bedrooms and tank size. Bedrooms don't generate sewage -- people do. But the code is apparently written in terms of bedrooms and tank size. That is pretty easy for most people to understand . . . and for government to enforce.

It's government's machinations trying to get around enforcing it that is so troubling here.