EAST COUNTY — In an otherwise empty pool at the Willowbrook condominium community in East County, a group of homeowners are huddled around a scrapbook full of pictures of moldy ceilings, sinking floors, balconies without railings and water-damaged walls.
Residents say these problems are all the result of faulty building and materials that wouldn’t have happened had the county found the errors during inspections.
But at the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, Oct. 30, county building department officials disagreed, saying the structural problems in Willowbrook were the fault of KB Home, the development’s builder.
John Barnott, director of the county’s building and development services, reported findings of county inspections and blamed the condo’s issues on “weatherproofing and quality-of-construction issues that are not subject to the building code.”
Residents don’t believe that explanation.
“The county frustrates me,” said Armando Oyolo-Delgado, an outspoken resident. “They take the defense that this is a private matter. Yes, there are private issues and legalities. But we’re not asking him to get involved in that. They need to hold KB Home, which gave us a bad product, accountable for what they did.”
County attorney Mickey Palmer, who is board certified in construction law, maintained the small role of government in private disputes and says inspectors are limited in what they’re required to look out for.
“The county doesn’t have inspectors looking over the contractor’s shoulders every day,” Palmer said, noting government inspectors are responsible for only a small part ofa broad building code. “Disputes like this happen every day. If local government got involved in everyone’s construction claims, it would set a bad precedent. Sometimes the builders violate the building code and the government isn’t aware of it.”
At the meeting, county commissioners also eliminated a proposal to make void mandatory mediation clauses for the sale and construction of homes.
Contact Josh Siegel at firstname.lastname@example.org.