Manatee commissioners order report on whether county failed Willowbrook residents

MANATEE -- After yet another appearance by beleaguered Willowbrook homeowners, the Manatee County Commission on Tuesday ordered a report that will address factual issues, such as whether the county's building inspection system worked properly or not.

Commissioners told frustrated homeowners from the East Manatee development plagued with construction defects that they would address the issue after hearing a staff report due Oct. 30.

Homeowner Nicholas Sommer asked how building code violations that have caused serious water intrusion in many of the units could have occurred.

"Manatee County has failed our community by not ensuring proper inspections" were done, he said.

The county needs to take responsibility for construction irregularities that have rendered many homes uninhabitable, he told commissioners.

“Willowbrook has become a black eye for Manatee County, and a place of heartache for its residents,” he told the board.

Homeowners have told commissioners previously that their homes have water intrusion on the third and second floor balconies, which has led to sinking floors and loose guard rails. Interior damage includes wood deterioration and wall moisture. Some residents said they’ve spotted evidence of mold.

Mandatory arbitration clauses were included in their contracts with the builder, California-based KB Home, which prohibits residents from suing the developer for poor construction, the homeowners said.

Through arbitration, legally binding settlements are made outside of court through a third party.

A representative from KB Home and about a dozen residents from Willowbrook were present at one commission meeting.

“We’re going to repair these units, we’re going to make this community whole, and we’ll make the residents proud,” George Glance, president of KB Home’s Central Florida operations, told commissioners.

But homeowners said Tuesday that so far, help from KB Home has not been forthcoming.

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