Oscar Drive cracks open development dilemma

Matthews – Mint Hill Weekly

Oscar Drive in Forest Brook Estates has several spots where the road has cracked, leaving large crevices that could cause damage to vehicles and potentially cause accidents for pedestrians. Crystal O'Gorman/MMHW photo.

MATTHEWS – Scott and Leslie Page step over cracks and walk around a large orange construction barrel covering a sinkhole, near the sidewalk at the entrance to Forest Brook Estates.
“It’s a safety hazard,” said Leslie Page. “We’ve got a lot of kids and pets on this road – it’s dangerous.”

The Pages moved to the 19-home neighborhood in 2011. Scott Page said they were told when they moved that the road would be fixed, but four years later, the problem is worse.
“(Developer) Tom Stevens (of Valley Development Inc.) turned over the HOA (homeowners association) with the promise that the roads would get fixed,” he said. “Why stick the homeowners with the problem?”
That unanswered question has left homeowners with no choice but to petition the town to draft a special assessment in order to resolve the problem.

Crystal O'Gorman/MMHW photo.

Kerry Lamson, HOA treasurer, presented town engineer CJ O’Neill with a petition for a special assessment of Oscar Drive on April 7. The petition includes 80 percent of the homeowners’ signatures and two exceptions. The HOA asked the town to make exceptions for homeowners to reconvene about costs before construction if final bid costs exceed 110 percent of the town’s final assessment, and to allow the homeowners to split their cost of the project over an eight- to 10-year period loan with a conservative interest rate.

Lamson said the decision to take ownership of the problem comes after several years of back-and-forth conversations between the town and Stevens.
“The attorney fees were coming out of the road bond, so we asked them to stop – don’t waste time and money, and let’s take a different approach,” he said.
The problem began with the recession in 2009, according to Lamson. Valley Development received permits to develop Forest Brook Estates in 2007. The company had a base road constructed and put down the required road bond to finish the work, once 80 percent of the properties were constructed.

Oscar Drive shows signs of gradation damage, due to the lack of having a top coat of asphault and wear and tear on the base road for eight years. Oscar Drive in Forest Brook Estates shows signs of gradation damage, due to the lack of having a top coat of asphalt and wear and tear on the base road for eight years. Crystal O'Gorman/MMHW photo.

Only four houses were built in the 20-lot subdivision between 2007 and 2010, as the recession hurt the housing market. The market eventually rebounded, and Bonterra Builders began building homes in the neighborhood.

Eighty percent of the lots were built by the end of 2012; however, the road conditions continued to deteriorate, said Lamson.
“This street is over eight years old and has never been finished,” he said.
Lamson claimed the developer chose to default on the road bond and not complete the road, leaving the homeowners to pick up the bill. The town requires developers to put down a bond to finish the top coat of the road after 80 percent of the lots are developed. The eight-year gap between the completion of the base road and the development of the required amount of homes wreaked havoc on the base road, leaving it in need of serious repairs before topping it off.
Currently, $49,000 sits in a road bond as the only means to cover more than $100,000 in repairs.
The HOA reached out to the Matthews Board of Commissioners for help assessing the damage. After the petition was accepted on April 7, commissioners heard comments from Lamson and Forest Brook Estates homeowner Chris Haley at the board’s April 13 meeting.
“We are aware of it. I applaud you for taking the action so far,” Mayor Jim Taylor told Lamson at the meeting.

The storm water sewer system along Oscar Drive was taped off more than a year ago by Matthews; however, the foundation where the system sits continues to erode as homeowners await for the resolution. Crystal O'Gorman/MMHW photo.

Commissioners discussed the Oscar Drive special assessment at their April 27 meeting and instructed town attorney Charles Buckley to draft a resolution in favor of the assessment. The board will vote to approve or deny the resolution on May 25. If the resolution is approved, the town will then set a public hearing where public works director Ralph Messera will discuss the cost and issues for the repairs.
Lamson said the estimated cost of repairs is $120,000, which includes an additional $9,700 to pay for the neighborhood streetlights – an amount he said Valley Development never paid to Duke Energy.
“The HOA pays $350 per month to keep the lights on, until the town adopts Oscar Drive into (the) Matthews Street Plan,” he said.

Forest Brook Estates homeowners only have one road in and out of the neighbor. The orange cone blocking off a sinkhole is evidence of the damage on that road. Crystal O'Gorman/MMHW photo.

The initial assessment, completed on March 24, estimated repair costs at $109,000. That assessment included 45, 1.5-foot curb and gutter repairs; 607, 1.5-foot curb and gutter replacements; 125, 5-foot sidewalk replacements; 19 storm drain structure point ups; three yard drain adjustments, four manhole adjustments, 3,585 square yards of full-depth reclamation and resurface; and one pipe repair.
“The road has gotten so bad that a full reclamation of the road is required to get it up to the town’s required standards,” said Lawson.

Crystal O'Gorman/MMHW photo.

Forest Brook Estates homeowners await the resolution on May 25 in hopes of an approval. They hope to have Oscar Drive adopted into the Matthews Street Plan once the road is repaired, which they say will alleviate future maintenance and street light electricity costs for homeowners.
“We cannot hold our children hostage to these bad street conditions,” Haley told commissioners on April 13. “We want our streets to look just like yours. We pay Matthews and Mecklenburg county taxes on our over $300,000 homes.

“We love the street we live on – we just need your help.”
Valley Development, Inc., did not respond to phone calls by Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly’s press deadline.

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