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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