Permission, scolding for Habitat

Tuesday, November 20, 2007
A Habitat for Humanity house at 331 Country Club Drive is completed but vacant until a plat issue is resolved. (Fred Lynch)

Efforts by neighbors to stop a Habitat for Humanity -- Cape Area project failed on Monday night. Despite a petition with 62 signatures, Cape Girardeau's city council members had no choice but to approve Habitat's request to split a parcel of land in the Rose Marie subdivision.

One Habitat home already stands on half of the 1.1 acre property.

"Our ultimate goal is to stop that second house," Tracey Lively said. She and her husband, Brad Lively, own 2.4 acres adjacent to the Habitat site. The couple said 18-wheel trucks damaged a culvert installed on their land and that Habitat volunteers removed signs and cones designed to mark the property line. Brad Lively said the Habitat home, dedicated Oct. 16, was built without proper drainage.

City manager Doug Leslie told the crowd the city had issued a stop-work order shortly after the first home was started because volunteers exceeded a limited permit. Work was allowed to continue after the city inspected the property, he said, adding that drainage concerns would be investigated.

"They have not been good neighbors to us," Brad Lively said.

Tracey Lively said several times that Habitat for Humanity "is not a bad organization."

Many of the neighbors objected to the means by which the Cape Girardeau Habitat officials handled the Rose Marie development.

Mandi Brink, who lives next door to the new home, called Habitat officials "shady."

"I guess that's a bad word," said Brink who lives next to the new home. "They were shady, using our driveway without our permission."

She said volunteers moved the trucks after being asked to do so.

"There's not a doubt in my mind a number of things could have been handled better in this issue," Mayor Jay Knudtson said, adding that local Habitat officials "needed a little brushing up in diplomacy."

Councilman John Voss, a former Habitat board member, said he was "clearly disappointed in how Habitat has conducted this affair."

Voss expressed concern that Habitat's otherwise good work "wasn't carried out very well" in this case.

The council voted unanimously to approve Habitat's request to split the parcel.

Meanwhile, the first home stands empty.

According to Robin Cole, a Habitat board member, the home can't be sold until the property is legally divided. He said the parcel cost Habitat $20,000 and the cost of land is applied to the home's mortgage. Five homes were originally planned for the site, with an access road to the back of the property. After neighbors balked, Habitat scaled down the plan to three homes and a road, then two homes, making the access road unnecessary.

Despite the house keys being handed over at the dedication, the locks were changed the next day because the home did not have an occupancy permit. After the home's Oct. 26 final inspection, the city issued the permit.

Lowell Peterson, executive director for Habitat for Humanity -- Cape Area, said he understood the Habitat recipient was frustrated.

After hearing from neighbors and being scolded by the mayor, Peterson addressed the council and said Habitat would fix the Livelys' culvert. He agreed the organization could have handled some issues better, but couldn't control where trucks parked.

Late Monday, Tim Morgan, Cape Girardeau's city inspector, discovered another Habitat home, at 754 West End Blvd., does not have an occupancy permit. The family moved into that home in August.

Morgan said the West End Boulevard home did not pass its Aug. 15 final inspection. He said items cited included improperly sealed lines from the air conditioning unit into the home.

Peterson said he knew the home had several problems, including a nonworking doorbell, a defective smoke detector and "something to do with Sheetrock that's easily fixed."

He was under the impression the home did have an occupancy certificate.

"They were supposed to call for a re-inspection and they never called," Morgan said. "So no certificate of occupancy was issued."

Morgan said he'd be calling on Habitat's local officials this morning.

335-6611, extension 127

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