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Disabled soldier and his family decide not to build in Knob Hill

Knob Hill lot

The construction at Knob Hill has officially ended, as the Gittens family no longer wants to stay there. (WRDW-TV / June 28, 2011)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday June 28, 2011

EVANS, Ga. -- After Knob Hill says no to them, they're officially saying no to Knob Hill. Now the search is on for a new neighborhood.

"Let's put all the bickering behind us and lets focus on the mission," said John Gonsalves, the Founder and President of Homes for Our Troops. And that mission is building a home for a paralyzed vet and his family.

The decision came after Sergeant First Class Sean Gittens' family members said they don't feel welcome in the Knob Hill neighborhood anymore.

Gittens served three tours of duty in Iraq before suffering traumatic brain injuries that left him paralyzed and unable to talk.

Homes for Our Troops stepped in and offered to build the family a new home, equipped for all of his needs, mortgage free.

That home was set to be in the Knob Hill neighborhood in Evans, but the Knob Hill Property Owners Association blocked the project, saying parts of the plans had not been approved.

Some neighbors said the home didn't fit in with others that were larger and that their property value might take a hit.

Ever since, it has been a bitter back and forth between Homes for our Troops and members of the Knob Hill Property Owners Association.

At the center of the debate is this family who is just looking for a forever home. It wasn't an easy decision for the Gittens family, but in the end, Sharon Gittens said they just want to live where they're wanted.

Pinwheels and American flags line the lot where Sgt. Gittens and his family were hoping to build their dream home.

But the Knob Hill Property Owners Association halted construction late last week, citing design details that were unapproved. Some neighbors were concerned the new home would lower their property values.

"Embrace the veterans and appreciate what they've done for the country and stop worrying about property value," Sharon Gittens said.

The backlash has the Gittens family now planning to live elsewhere.

"There are some neighbors who feel like we may need to go somewhere else, so we are going to go somewhere else," Sharon said.

Gonsalves is standing by the family.

"We're unfortunately at a situation where we're not going to be able to move forward here," he said. "She has her husband, she has four children; they need to feel fine with where it is that we're going to build this home."

Now the organization is back to square one and is on the hunt for a new lot. News 12 is told they are already in talks with a few builders.

"I'm confident that someone will step up and help find us a lot to build a new home," Sharon said.

Homes for Our Troops says they would have never picked Knob Hill if they had known how picky the board members would be.

"It had everything that these other homes here have, and this project should have never been stopped," Gonsalves said.

The organization is planning to sell the Knob Hill lot, and even take a loss if it has to.

"We're going to build a home for this family and although it wont be here in Knob Hill, I still expect there will probably be many residents who live here who are going to still come out and help us," Gonsalves said.

There were no board members at the press conference Tuesday morning, either for or against the home. Homes for Our Troops says moving forward, they will be recommending that Knob Hill and other neighborhoods update their covenants if they want specific requirements.

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  • by Hoss Location: South on Jul 1, 2011 at 04:24 PM
    What does Columbia County have to say about this matter? What a shame on Snob Hill and Shame on those who support Knob Hill's decision for stopping construction on the home. SFC Gittens served our country, got severely injured, comes back home, and this is the thanks he gets? I hope everything works out in favor for The Gittens Family.
  • by Dustin Location: Appling, Ga on Jul 1, 2011 at 08:56 AM
    I am telling you though it isn't just Knob Hill. It is most of Columbia County that is like this. People think they are better because of money and big houses. What about southern hospitality? This man deserves to live where he wants and the people deserve to be more than ashamed for disrespecting someone who allows them to live their glorious I am better than you life style. Good Luck on finding somewhere nice.
  • by Scott on Jun 29, 2011 at 03:30 AM
    Congratulations to the people who turned their backs on a man who spent his life ensuring that they could live free and be able to make their own decisions. Nice going...
  • by Gail Location: Heber City, UT on Jun 28, 2011 at 07:05 PM
    To The Gittens Family:
    I am so grateful to you all for the sacrifices you have made and CONTINUE to make. It's a very difficult position you're in, and I for one am RELIEVED you've decided to go elsewhere to build your home. You don't NEED the people in "Snob Hill" to "approve" your home plans. These so-called "Americans" make me sick. THEIR property values are at an all-time LOW because of the RECESSION - not because you want to build there. I say "good riddance" to them. Come to Heber City where we know how to treat veterans AND their families. May God Bless you and your family.
  • by KK Location: augusta,ga on Jun 28, 2011 at 05:17 PM
    I live in Willhaven which is 90% military. Maybe they need to look at a community like this where you are surrounded by your fellow soliders. They would feel more welcomed than out there in snob hill.
  • by GAB Location: Martinez on Jun 28, 2011 at 05:01 PM
    Gives a new and true meaning to "SNOBBY KNOB" Hill. I mean really, I hope that all those who stopped this family from getting EVERYTHING they deserve and more, which I feel they deserve more, more than what snob knob could ever give them one day need the service of a VETERAN and the "favor" is returned. If it weren't for this man they would not be allowed to be a snob, and what his family has sacrificed. I WOULD LIKE TO THANK HIM FOR EVERYTHING AND THANK HIS FAMILY, WIFE AND CHILDREN FOR ALL THEIR SACRIFICES AND SHARING HIM WITH US. May God Bless him and his family, and all I can say is Karma comes back when she is least expected, 10 folds of the good deed or harm that was done. CAN'T WAIT TO FIND OUT WHAT THEY FIND SO I CAN GIVE SOME OF MY TIME LIKE HIM AND HIS FAMILY HAS GIVEN THEIRS, they all deserve more than us as a NATION could ever give them....THANX
  • by Sharon on Jun 28, 2011 at 04:40 PM
    Shame on you Knob Hill. How do you people sleep at night?
  • by Jennifer Location: Martinez, GA on Jun 28, 2011 at 04:26 PM
    There are 2 lots for sale in the neighborhood I live in and it's just as nice as Knob Hill. They would be welcome here!
  • by Nik Location: ga on Jun 28, 2011 at 04:23 PM
    Wonder the "real" reason why they jumped to oppose this. What a way to thank a vet who paid to make sure these people could have this right.
  • by Cathy on Jun 28, 2011 at 04:23 PM
    I think its horrible that this wonderful family was treated the way they were. This man stood for his fellow man was injured and this is how he is treated by the community what a disgrace, property value HA that should be the last thing on there minds.
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