Trouble in Cumberland's Great Woods for homebuyers, town

Trouble in Cumberland's Great Woods for homebuyers, town

Greg Hattoy and Gina Iaciofano of North Providence, along with her dad, have invested more than $140,000 into this house in Great Woods Estate that could be auctioned off to a stranger on May 8. The house, built by the Colucci Companies, is in foreclosure despite the couple's willingness to close on it. (Breeze photos by Tom Ward)
Couple at risk of losing home, town may incur costs due to builder's defaults

CUMBERLAND - The house that Greg Hattoy and Gina Iaciofano of North Providence chose to build off Little Pond County Road, the one with three bedrooms, an open floor plan and filled with upgrades and special features, the one Greg described as "our dream forever house," is going on the auction block on May 8.

The devastating loss to the newlyweds is threatened even though they and the bank are willing to close now and settle up with the builder, the Colucci Companies of Cranston.

And it's looming even after they've sunk $140,000 into their Lot 24 of Great Woods Estates, including paying subcontractors directly just to get the house finished.

But theirs is just one piece of the Great Woods Estate story.

Cumberland taxpayers may be on the hook to complete problems with roadways associated with the project that backs up to Broadview Acres.

Also unresolved is the sewer pumping station that services the subdivision and was supposed to be managed by a homeowners' association that was never formed. Neighbors are asking the town to take on its management. (See related story page 9.)

The 30-lot Great Woods Estate was approved by the Cumberland Planning Board back in 2004 on property previously owned by Muriel Jannell. It required building the new Bourque Road and side streets Vincent Way and Eric Court. Water lines came in from Diamond Hill Road along Little Pond County Road.

Attorney Michael Kelly told the planners 10 years ago that the subdivision was first laid out in 1992 so the 25,000-square-foot lots were grandfathered under the town's zoning code.

Houses went up for sale just as the recession hit the region. Since 2008, Cumberland real estate records are showing, four houses each were completed on Eric and Vincent and 12 on Bourque.

Meanwhile, the remaining 10 vacant lots were sold off in a Cumberland tax sale held late last year.

Left high and dry, too, are dozens of area subcontractors and suppliers who've filed complaints of nonpayment with the Rhode Island Contractors' Registration and Licensing Board after working on many of the Colucci Company homes here.

And for Greg and Gina - and her dad who's been footing most of the bills - the loss they face is a financial setback that will consume dollars they began saving as teenagers.

They say they've learned from Atlantic Financial that the Coluccis are refusing to close with them because after the out-of-pocket spending by Gina and Greg is subtracted from the amount owed, and liens by contractors are settled, there's no money for the Coluccis who, in fact, may end up owing money.

Collucci Companies did not answer the telephone on Monday.

Said Gina to the Rhode Island Contractors' Registration Board, "It seems that their answer is to foreclose on the house so that the liens are wiped away and they are relieved of any responsibility or ownership. They do not care about the money and time that a foreclosure will cost us."

Gina and Greg, who married in September of 2012, were still engaged when they found the Colucci brothers' company online after putting Cumberland on their short list of preferred communities.

He grew up in Warwick and she in North Providence, where they live now.

She's a mental health counselor and he works for Alexion Pharmaceutical in Smithfield.

"We were just engaged and we were thinking about where would be a nice area to raise a family," Gina said.

Great Woods Estate, off the quiet, winding Little Pond County Road in the center of town, offered a rural feel, they said, but was close to the Route 295 ramp and "not too far from the sights and sounds of the city.

"We went shopping and this is the neighborhood we fell in love with. It's a beautiful, beautiful neighborhood," she said.

The purchase agreement they signed in June of 2012 had a base price of $380,000 and an oral agreement for $71,000 more in upgrades.

Gina's dad, himself in the construction trade, was helping out, she said.

As the project fell behind and subs began refusing to work, their out-of-pocket cash payments to the Coluccis for upgrades and to cover the cost of materials, grew to $108,550. Contractors were directly paid another $31,611. Gina's dad, Joseph Iaciofano, covered all but the $19,441 that the newlyweds contributed.

He also spent $15,000 to cover two years of back taxes when Cumberland included their house and other vacant lots in a tax sale.

Looking back, there were warning signs from the start, but all around folks were moving into homes and assurances from the builders were plentiful.

The contract was signed in July but ground wasn't broken until around November.

Says Greg, looking back, "The contractor never moved at a consistent pace. There'd be one week of work and then nothing for a full month. It's been kind of been sketchy from day one.

"He was always giving a song and dance. Always with an answer for everything.

"I guess we were gullible."

As much of a house of horrors the project has become for them, they say, they're still anxious to call it home. Their would-be neighbors are great. "The people are amazing, so kind and supportive." A half-dozen or so have reached out to them to share their issues with the builders and to offer help.

The two are hanging strong, they say, even as the auction date approaches.

"This could have destroyed a marriage. The time, the expense, the money," said Greg.

Still left undone are repairs for what Greg describes as "significant cracks" in the walls because the drywall appears to have not been hung properly. Shingles are missing from the roof, an unlicensed subcontractor drilled into a plumbing pipe while installing a stove vent. Landscaping never happened.

They weren't the only one facing financial ruin as homes they've invested in go into foreclosure.

Another was Catherine Martineau and her husband, who got a text message in July of 2013 that their incomplete home was being sold off to another person after they'd invested $60,000 into it. Subcontractors and suppliers were owed thousands of dollars, they learned, and Colucci was demanding another $18,000 before closing.

In the end, Catherine Martineau says, it cost them $30,000 more to settle up and finally move in.

She told The Breeze, "We were homeless for over one year because of these men, moving from friends homes and our children's homes. Our entire life was in a storage unit in Cumberland for almost two years.

"It ended up costing us an extra $30,000 just in lawyer fees, storage, motel rooms for false closings, not to mention the toll it took on us mentally. Yes, we did close finally, but it sure wasn't worth all the drama, that's for sure."

She added, "It is an awful feeling knowing that most of the people that worked on your home did not get paid. They put time and money into our home and had families to feed and care for, and got nothing for their work."

Bourque Road in the Great Woods development off Little Pond County Road in Cumberland remains an unfinished and crumbling mess by the developer, Collucci Companies of Cranston.

Comments

First off,things that should have been done..lawyer to set up escrow account in case of builder issues...... check out all credentials, going too fast too soon, red flags all over...the state and county could have prevented this nonsense also by requiring contractor to set up before buyers...as my city does. This house is a money pit just like the movie.....walk away....save your mind.