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Neighbors fight Farmington subdivision
by TOM BUSSELBERG
Apr 30, 2014 | 3400 views | 1 1 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Workmen inspect sinking that has occurred at several homes in Farmington subdivision. The city council will consider a request to build more homes adjacent to that development  Tuesday evening - Courtesy Photo
Workmen inspect sinking that has occurred at several homes in Farmington subdivision. The city council will consider a request to build more homes adjacent to that development Tuesday evening - Courtesy Photo
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FARMINGTON — Neighbors of a proposed north Farmington subdivision are hoping the city council won’t approve it in their Tuesday night meeting.

The Pheasant Hollow Subdivision is being planned by Symphony Homes for about four acres on 50 E. 700 South. It could include 12 single family homes.

Soil stability to handle the weight of new homes form the basis for many concerns.

“Allowing Symphony Homes to build on this location would be a big mistake,” said Dan Larson, in a letter to Eric Anderson, associate Farmington City planner.

Larson’s house was built in 1999 by Symphony Homes about 300 feet north of the proposed subdivision.

Ten years later, Larson said he had to have seven push piers installed under the foundation to stop it from sinking into the “marshy earth,” at a cost of $9,000.

“My house sank 4.5 inches in less than 10 years,” Larson said. “This was only to stop the sinking and did not correct the problem,” with another $20,000 and 12 piers needed to do that.

He claims four of the 15 homes built previously by Symphony have had “serious foundation problems,” and said repair bills ills ranged from $30,000 to $70,000.

Building the first subdivision, as well as approving another one, is “irresponsible” on the city’s part, Larson said.

Mark Paskett and family moved into their home 15  years ago, the first in the first subdivision.

He said there were “some bulges in a wall” noticeable “right before closing,” but Symphony Homes officials told him “this is normal settling for new homes.”

“That bulge got worse as the months went on. There were other cracks and bulges, doors not closing properly.”

Paskett said Symphony did repair those problems, and later replaced the driveway and garage floor, which had settled to what he called “dangerous” levels.

“A couple more years go by, then the driveway begins to settle some more. Big cracks start to develop in the bonus room above the garage, and doors won’t close again,” he said. “Within four to five years I’m beginning to realize we might have some problems beyond normal settling.”

A foundation repair company checked things out and gave him “horrible news:” cost estimates that the family couldn’t afford.

Paskett and another neighbor filed a lawsuit against Symphony, which he said “kept claiming the settling was normal for all of the houses.”

Howard and Cherrill Dygert, who live near 700 S. 100 East, in a home not built by Symphony,  share concerns about building the new subdivision. They’ve lived in the area for decades.

“There is a piece of really wet, boggy ground behind (his) house,” Howard Dygert said. He remembers a time when a cow had to be pulled from the marshy area, stuck nearly up to its head.

“What we’d really like to see if that (area) could be preserved for a little park,” he said. “It could be an absolute gem.

“We’re not saying to just cut these guys (Symphony) off, or let them lose their investment,” Dygert emphasized.

“I know Symphony took great lengths to shore up” homes with problems, said City Planner David Petersen. “They installed helico piers, moved lots of rock and gravel onto their site.”

“We had a soils report from the subdivision,” he said. “Every time they dug a hole, the builder had a soil engineer there.”

The city has only so much control over what the property owner can do, Petersen said. “What grounds does the city have to deny a property owner his fundamental rights if a professional says it’s OK. We’ll look at the soils report carefully.”

He said the city has received no comments from property owners over the years about problems.

“On that previous (first) phase, we did follow a soil engineer’s recommendation,” said John Wheatley, vice president of development for Symphony Homes.

“Unfortunately, there were still a few homes that suffered negative consequences,” he said, adding that homeowners could work with an insurance company to resolve problems.

“I wasn’t with the company then,” he emphasized. “On this new phase, we’ll do more extensive soils testing on individual lots before we proceed with construction. We’ll probably consider more advanced solutions –to over-excavate where foundations go, then put in a larger amount of structural fill to bridge any structural problems that could be underneath.”

Helical peers could be used in “extreme cases,” Wheatley said, “We would definitely do more testing because we’ve had an adverse experience in the past.”

Assuming approvals are forthcoming, he hopes the North Salt Lake company can start construction this summer.

The city council meets at 7 p.m. at city hall, 160 S. Main Street. It may give conceptual approval that night. However, preliminary and final plat approval would come later.

Comments
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Mark P
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May 01, 2014
Interesting quote from the builder..."we followed the soil engineers recommendations" I wonder what report they were using, because the one filed with the city for the development was NOT followed. One thing that I can not understand still is why the city does not ensure that the recommendations are followed as the claim they are. If the city is going to rely on soil engineers hired by the developer to "be present a each dig" to ensure the things are followed, why do we even have building inspectors?

City planner says city's hands are tied...can't deny property owners rights to do what they want with the land. It seems to me that cities deny rights to property owners all the time when it comes to raising backyard chickens or there is a business that someone doesn't like.

City planner also says helical piers we used in the first subdivision 15 years ago. I wonder what happened to the piers. There are none under the 6 homes that are sinking. I do know that one home in the subdivision, built by a different builder, has helical piers supporting it. The city planner told me that the city required the builder to install piers because it started to sink while under construction. I wonder why the city did not care enough that my home was sinking while under construction to require Symphony Homes to install piers under it. VP in charge of development for Symphony states that "helical piers could be used in 'extreme cases'"...I guess homes sinking more than 4 inches on one side and garages literally tearing away from the rest of the house are not "extreme cases".
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