Home for handicapped veteran hits road block

By: Justin Fabiano Email
By: Justin Fabiano Email

News 12 at 11 o' clock / Wednesday, June 22, 2011

EVANS, Ga. -- News 12 first met Sergeant First Class Sean Gittens in March in a story about Homes for our Troops. The organization makes homes more accessible for members of our armed services confined to wheelchairs.

Sergeant Gittens returned from his third deployment in Iraq in 2007 after being seriously injured. He took a series of IED blasts which caused traumatic brain injuries. He later had a stroke that left him paralyzed. He can't move at all, even to talk.

Sgt. Gittens' house was the next project for Homes for our Troops. They planned to build Gittens a new one-story home in Knob Hill in Columbia County. The organization says Knob Hill gave them the go ahead to build June 2. Construction was supposed to start Friday, but now there's a cease and desist letter on the property. The letter orders Homes for our Troops not to build because their plans don't meet the neighborhood's architectural standards.

Joc Knispel lives in Knob Hill, and his house has to meet certain standards.

"Square footage requirements, what the house is made of, what the facade is," he explained. "From what I understand this house doesn't meet those requirements."

Homes for our Troops says the neighborhood wants them to build the house 3,400 square feet and multi-leveled. We found some architectural codes from Knob Hill's website saying homes only need to be 2,700 square feet. The home also can't be multi-level because it's for a handicapped veteran.

"They're trying to work through it, but I don't think we're there yet," Knispel said.

Neighbors like Knispel want them to work through it, but they also want to make sure everything is done right.

"Don't build it the way it is in the current state," he said. "It would just devalue my property and devalue my neighbors' property too."

That doesn't mean people who live in Knob Hill don't want Homes for our Troops to build this home at all.

"Just slow down," Knispel said. "The people building need to get everything right, and then start building."

Other neighbors say they want the house built no matter what. One person who lives in Knob Hill told News 12 on the phone she "doesn't care if it's a log cabin with Davey Crockett sitting out front in a coon-skin hat."

News 12 tried to interview the Knob Hill property owners association, but they declined.


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