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Builder stops construction on North Wilmington development

By Adam Zewe
Staff Reporter

Posted Thursday, November 14, 2007

Ryan Homes, builder of the Legacy at Brandywine Village development in North Wilmington, has stopped construction in the partially completed community.

Forty-three homes have been built, according to John Dattner, spokesman for the homeowners in the development, but 184 homes are planned.

The development, on the Concord Pike in North Wilmington, is a community for people 55 and older with homes starting at $360,000.

Dattner and about 50 other residents met with County Councilman Robert Weiner (R-Chatham) on Nov. 8 to express concerns about the unfinished development.

Weiner said Ryan Homes does not plan on developing any more lots in the community.

"We don't make any comments," Dawn Leeson, an employee of Ryan Homes, told the Community News.

"Nobody saw this coming," Dattner said. "Now you essentially have a group of homeowners who are not sure what is going to happen."

Ryan Homes started construction in March, 2006, but Weiner said the company had trouble selling homes and decided not to buy any more lots from the developer, The Atlantic Companies.

"The market is in an economic downturn, particularly on houses in the high-price bracket," Weiner told the Community News.

Weiner said Ryan Homes did not violate any laws by stopping construction and there is nothing New Castle County can do for the homeowners. He advised them to consult a lawyer.

The Atlantic Companies, based in Florham Park, N.J., is looking for another builder to complete the project, Weiner said, and it is just a matter of time until they find one.

Brett Owings, director of engineering for The Atlantic Companies, could not be reached for comment.

"The project was supposed to be done by Ryan Homes in three years," Weiner told the Community News. "Now, it could be done in five years by a builder who has yet to be named."

Construction was supposed to be completed by June, 2009, said Dattner, and a break in construction will cause delays in completing the development's roads and gatehouse.

The topcoat of asphalt will not be put on the roads until home construction is complete, Weiner said, and gates will be installed when 75 percent of the homes are finished.

There is a large pile of topsoil in the center of the community, which Weiner said will remain there until construction is finished.

"We are going to have a much longer time until we get a security gate," Paula Hankel, 64, said. "It is a very uncomfortable feeling, living in a development that is not even half finished."

Hankel, a resident since July, 2007, said drivers cut through the development to and from the Concord Pike, creating a safety concern for residents.

She said she loves her home, but residents are concerned that a new builder will construct different homes, which could be cheaper and lower property values in the development.

Weiner said that larger, more expensive homes have been selling better in the development and he expects another builder to construct similar homes.

The time it will take to find another builder is Dattner?s biggest concern. He said he is worried the roads and gatehouse may not be finished for months or years.

"If there are absolutely no other builders that come in, it has to be a community that people can live in," he said.

The Atlantic Companies is maintaining the development using condominium fees paid by the homeowners, but maintenance will become the homeowners' responsibility in 2011, Dattner said.

He is worried that if all homes are not complete, the homeowners will not be able to afford maintenance costs for the entire property.

"The only thing that lets me sleep at night is knowing that is three and a half years out," he said.

Hankel said she was surprised Ryan Homes stopped construction and would like to see the company finish the development.

"I have weathered many storms in my life, but I always hung tough. Ryan should have hung tough, too," said Hankel. "I wanted to have peace and quiet in my senior years, but instead I have confusion and uncertainty."

Regina Cohen, 53, was also surprised Ryan stopped construction because she has seen people visiting the development to look at homes every weekend since she moved in a year ago.

Cohen said because the development has a convenient location near shopping on the Concord Pike, she is confident another builder will be found soon.

"It is still prime land and it will just be a matter of when the housing market settles," she said. 

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