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Soldier's family, neighbors react to Knob Hill controversy

Gittens family

It's been a rough few years for the Gittens family. In 2007, while on his third deployment in Iraq, Sergeant First Class Sean Gittens suffered brain damage during a series of I.E.D. explosions. (WRDW-TV / June 23, 2011)

News 12 First at Five / Thursday June 23, 2011

EVANS, Ga. -- It's a story News 12 brought you first Wednesday night, and one that is now getting national attention.

The Homes for Our Troops organization has built specialty homes for more than 100 soldiers coming back from war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Last December, Homes for our Troops bought the land to build a house for Sergeant First Class Sean Gittens.

Workers, and a lot of volunteers, were planning to start building the home Friday in the Knob Hill community, in Evans. But before that could happen, the Knob Hill homeowners association has changed their minds, and is not approving plans for the home.

Members say the single, story brick home would be too small. They want it to be bigger and apparently they have the final say.

It's news that has come as a shock to just about everyone involved in the project. Some of the most shocked, are probably Sergeant First Class Sean Gittens and his family.

It's been a rough few years for the Gittens family. In 2007, while on his third deployment in Iraq, Sergeant First Class Sean Gittens suffered brain damage during a series of I.E.D. explosions, then a stroke left the soldier paralyzed and unable to speak.

"He's confined in this house that we are living in now," said Sharon Gittens, Sean's wife.

Sharon was looking forward to moving her husband into a custom-built home designed by Homes for Our Troops. The land was ready for construction to begin Friday.

"I wanted to see him be able to get around in his house. I want to see him have more access. He served his country 21 years, honors and dignity. He deserves it," Sharon said.

But now, plans for the home are on pause after the Knob Hill home owners association blocks the building.

"I was shocked. We are all so hurt and disappointed," Sharon said.

The homeowners association says the 2,700 square foot home does not match others in the estates section of the neighborhood. They want the home to be 3,400 square feet.

"It is sad. You have people out there risking their lives and there are people that just don't care," Sharon said.

Some Knob Hill neighbors are torn on the issue.

"Tell me what your reaction was when you heard this news?" I asked.

"Disgusted, really disgusted. It feels, disrespectful to a man who's risked his life for us to live like we do, in safety and I think if anything we, the homeowners should be out here building this house for them," answered Kandace Zumbro, a Knob Hill resident for the last six years.

But not all agree.

"So you support the board's decision?" I asked.

"I do support the board's decision because I pay my money, and I want the value of my home to stay. If they meet the criteria to build the build the home, I'm fine with it but, I just want my value of my home to stay the same," said homeowner Troy Williamson.

Now the Gittens family doesn't feel wanted in their own neighborhood.

"I do want to live somewhere where I feel welcome and if Knob Hill is not going to welcome us, maybe we don't need to live in this community," Sharon said.

News 12 was at the site Thursday, and crews were already there getting rid of all preparations they've brought in during the last few weeks.

The good news here is, Homes for Our Troops President John Gonsalves told News 12 no matter what, the Gittens family will still get the home they've been wanting. It just may not be in Knob Hill, where the family lives right now.

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