Construction of a home for veteran Sean Gittens was blocked this Friday, in Evans, Georgia. The organization Homes for our Troops was unable to proceed with its plans because of a conflict with Knob Hill Property Owners Association. This was after the land was purchased for the project last December. The reason given: the Gittens house would be too small.
The HOA initially gave no clear reason as to why the construction was stopped. Later, the HOA’s attorney told CBS News that new neighborhood houses must be at least 3,400 square foot mini-McMansions in order to be approved. This is despite the fact than many homes in the neighborhood are the same size as what the Gittens house would be, a sizeable 2,700 square feet.
And now, after much bad press, the HOA has changed their position again. Supposedly, Homes for our Troops just needs to supply the HOA with some addition paperwork.
Gittens was a Sgt. 1st Class when he was injured in Iraq three years ago. While fighting for the rights of Knob Hill residents to live in McMansions, he was injured by an IED and later suffered a stroke. Now, Gittens is wheelchair bound, unable to speak and considered severely disabled. Only the most severely disabled troops qualify for the home construction program, which builds homes for these veterans who have already sacrificed so much.
Prior to the conditional approval from the HOA, organization leaders worked closely with the HOA to ensure Gittens would be able to have a handicap accessible home there. But last week, a lawyer for the HOA handed contractors on the site a cease and desist letter.
Since you cannot squeeze blood from a turnip, Homes for our Troops and the Gittens were going to have to look at other options. That is, until public outcry caused the HOA to change their position following media coverage of the issue by CBS Channel 12 News of Augusta, GA.
While this appears to be a big win for the Gittens, they are less than enthusiastic. Gittens wife, Sharon, is having second thoughts about the move because of the attitude the neighborhood displayed toward them. They will always be the poor family on the block that drove down property values. Homes for our Troops President John Gonsalves isn’t holding his breath either. They have complied with every condition the HOA required to this point. Thus, he’s not confident the HOA will do the right thing moving forward.
Readers wishing to share their views can call or mail the Knob Hill HOA President Rick Trump. In a twist of irony, for the past 7 years Trump was the Director of Student and Financial Services for the University of Phoenix, the largest recipient of veteran educational benefits. (People in this position have been under investigation for swindling students into taking out student loans they would never be able to pay back.) So it appears that while veterans were good enough to pay part of Trump's salary with which he bought his home in Knob Hill, an actual veteran isn't good enough to own a house down the block.
To learn more about the media's recent help in covering disadvantaged veterans, click here.