Manatee county commissioners to consider Willowbrook dilemma

nwilliams@bradenton.comSeptember 6, 2012 

MANATEE -- The Manatee County building staff and county attorney will make a presentation today about construction problems at the Willowbrook townhome community in East Manatee to the county commission during a land-use meeting.

The county commission on Aug. 21 requested the presentation after about 10 homeowners from the community attended a board meeting and asked the county to get involved. The residents told about their problems with construction deficiencies in the KB Home development.

Since Aug. 3, county building inspectors have surveyed dozens of balconies inside the 272-unit community for problems with water intrusion due to rain coming in from the roofs of the units. So far, 32 balconies have been ruled unsafe to use.

For each uninhabitable balcony, the county has mailed notifications to the property owner -- the Willowbrook Condominium Association -- stating it needs to address the unsafe structure within 30 days. If the association does not secure or block access to the unsafe balconies, the county will step in and seal access to the decks.

The county can issue a lien on the property to recover repair costs.

On Aug. 27, KB Home announced it had reached an agreement with the Willowbrook Condominium Association regarding repairs. The agreement authorizes a third-party contractor to make repairs inside Willowbrook. The Willowbrook Association will select its own contractors, architects and engineers for the repair process.

Repairs by KB Home also have been an issue with res

idents, who have accused the multibillion dollar company of making insufficient repairs.

Residents have said water intrusion has spread through the inside of the units, leading to mold and moisture in the walls and floor damage.

More than 80 Willowbrook homeowners have asked KB Home to buy back their units.

Residents have written letters to several elected officials, including outgoing State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, who has been a supporter of the homeowners.

At the August meeting, Commissioner Carol Whitmore called the situation "a travesty."

Residents are hoping for a solution.

"The Manatee County Commissioners were sympathetic for the residents of Willowbrook and demanded further investigation into our allegations against KB Home," said Andy Smith, a Willowbrook resident. "Our issues are real and KB Home needs to be held accountable for their actions."

Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams

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