Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Homes built, but no street: Did city goof?

What do you do when the developer who built your house goes out of business before he builds the street your house is supposed to sit on?

A group of homeowners caught in this mess wants the city to help them get their street built. (It probably doesn't hurt their ability to get the city's attention that they've hired former Mayor Richard Vinroot to be their attorney.)

Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble gave City Council a briefing Monday night. Some of the homeowners were in the audience. The street was to be an extension of Wright Avenue, which now dead-ends at a creek. The houses are near the Lomax Avenue entrance to the Charlotte Swim & Racquet Club off Sharon-Amity Road. Seven houses are built and have been sold. They have an alley in back, and they can roll their garbage bins to Lomax Avenue. The folks living there say their addresses are on Wright Avenue (the phonebook confirms this), and that GPS shows the street having been built. That tends to confuse the police and FedEx. They worry about whether emergency services could find them quickly in the event of a fire, crime or health problem.

But because the subdivision was laid out before the city's subdivision ordinance was adopted, Kimble said, it didn't fall under the ordinance's rules, and the builder, Mick El-Massri, didn't have to put up a street bond – to ensure the street got built. Now, the developer has defaulted and may be facing bankruptcy, Kimble said. (Locust Lumber Co. now owns some of the unsold property, but a court records search finds dozens of civil suits but no bankruptcy filing for the developer.) The houses are built – and there's no street.

A second clump of houses by the same developer, Mick El-Massri, sits on another section of unbuilt Wright Avenue off the dead end of Delane. Lisa Hunter, who's lived in one of the streetless houses for almost three years, said the developer had told her he was going to use the money from selling two of those empty houses to finally build their street. But the city wouldn't issue a certificate of occupancy – because there was no street built.

I went for a look after the council meeting. The situation is, truly, a mess. Multiple property owners are affected. The city's street policies call for Wright Avenue to connect over the creek, which will drive up the cost of building it. But the homeowners prefer that to a dead end, they say.

"It was in our contract that the road would be built within a year," Stacey Searson said. She and her husband Tom have been there about 2 1/2 years. "We thought we were legally protected."

City officials said they'll look into the quickest way to get the street built, and into preventing this situation from happening again. Indeed. Here's the scary part: Kimble said there are little infill lots all over the city that might fall into this same Catch 22.


Anonymous said...

"City officials said they'll look into the quickest way to get the street built, and into preventing this situation from happening again."

If we had a dollar for everytime this has been printed (in response to development that's run amuck) CMS would have a budget surplus.

Anonymous said...

And now a developer will chair the planning commission!

Anonymous said...

Guessing, and stereotypically so, I bet by his last name that he has never swung a hammer or really knows anything about homebuilding. So many people from other countries come here, pass the general contractor's (GC) exam that any sixth grader could pass, and start building houses, and then go bankrupt. I've seen it happen time and time again in the home building industry. The state should make general contractors escrow a sizable percentage of their projects budget away to hold them personally accountable. If this guy declares bankruptcy, he'll start up a couple of months later under a new name.

Anonymous said...

Is Mick El-Massri the builder or the developer? The facts are confusing. If he is the builder, then he was under no obligation to finish the street. If were the developer, then he screwed these people. Please fill in the details.

Anonymous said...

Here's another classic exampleof the cart befor the horse, lr should I dare say the house before the street. Go figure!

SciFiJunkie said...

Who buys a home with out a street. And how did the builder sell it. If its in the City I would have thought that they had to have a street, paved or unpaved, before they could close. Let me guess these same people are close to loosing their homes due to bad financing also.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I'm puzzled too! How on earth do you close on a home without a street name? For my husband and me, there would be no closing. Some things just ought to be "common sense." From new areas we've looked at that's among the first thing they do, cut streets, name them and then build. Am I in left field on this?

Citizen65 said...

Just because a subdivision was created before the subdivision ordinance was adopted only grandfathers the division of land. The city's Planning Department could have denied the issuance of a zoning permit to build a house on the basis of no road frontage. Most zoning ordinances define road frontage as a lot, to be developed, must have frontage on an improved public or private road and unimproved road right-of-ways don't count.

Vincent said...

how could someone move into a home that had not been issued a CO? let alone get a mortgage, and title?

So this guy has (had) two developments in the same situation?

I build homes and you can bet your A$$ every single t is crossed and I is dotted. We over build and every inspection is passed +1....

You can also be sure that there is no way in hell we would turn over keys to a buyer, or offer up for sale on house that has no street, or has not been issued a CO...I would not allow it , the county would not allow it. Sounds like the builder "knows people".

Somebody needs to do better reporting, the story is bigger than the print relays.

Mary Newsom said...

To answer some questions:
El-Massri is the developer. I don't know -- yet -- who the builder is, it may also be El-Massri.
The people living in the houses bought them before the houses and the whole development were finished -- not unusual at all -- in part so they could have a say in customizing the interiors. The houses were in the $350,000 to $390,000 range.
There was no rezoning required, apparently. Obviously, certificates of occupancy were issued for the homes that were finished and sold to the occupants.
The street does have a name -- Wright Avenue. It just hasn't been built yet.

Anonymous said...

Rain Maker Enterprises Inc (Wood Land Homes)
8318 Pneville Matthews Rd, Charlotte, NC 28226-4753
Contact Phone: (704) 708-5177
URL (web address):
Business Category: Single-Family House Construction in Charlotte, NC
Industry (SIC): General Contractors-Single-Family Houses

Company Name: Rain Maker Enterprises Inc
Address: 8318 Pneville Matthews Rd, Charlotte, NC 28226-4753 (Map)
Alt Business Name: Wood Land Homes
Location Type: Single Location
Est. Annual Sales: $340,000
Est. # of Employees: 3
Est. Empl. at Loc.: 3
Year Started: 2000
State of Incorp: NC
SIC #Code: 1521
Contact's Name: Mick Elmassri
Contact's Title: President
NAICS: New Single-Family Housing Construction (except Operative Builders)

Anonymous said...

If you mention "more than meets the eye" then someone should check with the engineers "Environmental Designs " out of Cornelius "call Mr. Riley Burgess." as well as the city engineering dept. They had played a huge part of the problem, wherein they totally dropped the ball durring the permitting process about 2 years ago. The developer is not the only blame in this situation.

Anonymous said...

"The houses were in the $350,000 to $390,000 range."

How sad. There are currently 3 homes in that development listed on the MLS at 335k, 314.5k and 229K!!

These homes are in Cotswold and I assure you that the market is not so bad there that a 350k home should be listed for 229k.

Anonymous said...


"Lisa Hunter, who's lived in

one of the streetless houses for almost three years,

said the developer had told her he was going to use the money from selling two of those empty houses to finally build their street.

But the city wouldn't issue a certificate of occupancy – because there was no street built."

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Arizona. When new developments were going up in the 'burbs outside of Phoenix, your first clue was the street light poles, standing over finished streets, sidewalks, water and utility connections. ALL of this was done before the first foundation was poured. I grew up assuming that was the norm. It sure made a lot more sense than this bloody mess.

Anonymous said...

The NC GC test is open book, you don't need to know how to build a house.

the owner of the builder must hold the GC license.

check out some of the mid to higher end homes, look in the kitchens and bathrooms. look at the $88 bath tubs, cheap builder-grade fixtures and stock cabinetry that goes in to these homes/condos that are on the market for $225,000+ brand new. these builders/developers are pocketing the money.

Anonymous said...

You can get an aerial view of this neighborhood and the houses in question by going to Google, selecting Maps, and then searching maps for Charlotte Swim & Racquet Club. After Google locates the club, select Satellite View and then right click and choose "zoom in”. Keep zooming in to get as close as possible.

It appears to me that the alley Mary mentions runs behind the seven houses, which would be the garage end of the house. The alley appears to be as wide as a large automobile, and paved. At the other side of the house, the owners apparently look out their front windows at a lovely forested area. That would be the side where they would look at traffic going up Wright Avenue if it is extended.

So tell me again what their problem is? All they have to do is back onto the alley, drive up Lomax Avenue to Craig Avenue, and then head to Sharon-Amity or the other way toward Monroe Road, Wendover, etc. Most of us would be lucky to have their alleged “problem”.

I guess these Cotswold yuppies never heard the phrase “Caveat Emptor”. Chagrined, they now want to get their pound of flesh from the developer, and since it is likely he will dodge the bullet, we other taxpayers will get to foot the bill. I say let them wait, City Council, a long, long, long, long time. Meanwhile, fix some of our existing pot-holed thoroughfares.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a bunch of whiny home buyers are begging for a bailout. They dug the hole, let them pay for the street. Or they can just learn to walk.

Anonymous said...

They should name the street Mary Do Good Newsome Dr.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing to me how many people read a few lines about a very complicated situation and think they know it all. This story is based on one reporters perspective created after asking just a few simple questions. Yet readers pass judgement as if they they themselves have compiled years of research.

Anonymous said...

The reason the current homes are listed so cheap compared to the surrounding area is due to this whole fiasco. I have been following this ordeal for at least 4 months as we intended to flip one that was to be sold at auction. The note holder refused to sell us the house for $198K despite being the high bidder (wasn't an absolute auction) so it went back on the market. It was re-listed at 275K back in April and continued to price drop until they accepted an offer about three weeks ago. I am waiting for the transaction to be completed so I can see the final sale price on POLARIS.

The homeowners are stuck in limbo hoping the city will help them out now that the builder/developer has gone bankrupt. As the article states, what makes matters worse is there is a fairly sizable creeks that splits the existing Wright Ave. from the proposed extension. Because only one side of the new section was ever finished and sold, there are only about 6 homeowners. These homeowners may be forced to foot the cost of construction which conservatively priced could cost 15K to 20K each.

The city is not liable for anything so it is interesting to see what the final outcome will be.

Jhon Smith said...

Its a nice article!
Have enjoyed it! Carry on! Will be back soon!
shopping website

Anonymous said...

Mr. Smith please come back as soon as possible.

Anonymous said...

I would to know what 6th grader has passed the NC General Contractor's test?

You are dreaming!