Would-be Great Woods homeowners seek police investigation

Would-be Great Woods homeowners seek police investigation

CUMBERLAND - Another couple this week filed a complaint with the Rhode Island State Police alleging criminal activity by the Colucci Companies of Cranston, developer of the unfinished Great Woods Estate off Little Pond County Road.

Marissa O'Connor and her husband Bill of Cranston sought police help this week saying that in 2012 the firm kept their deposit - and the kitchen appliances and bamboo flooring they purchased out-of-pocket - after they refused to purchase a home flooded with 7,250 gallons of water.

The builder was already weeks overdue with little progress in evidence, she contends, when a water heater valve let go and saturated every room of the house.

The couple also complained to the Cumberland Police Department where Chief John Desmarais told The Breeze their charges were the first he'd received about the subdivision but his department would investigate.

Videos capture the sight and sound of water splashing through the ceilings and down the stairs even hours after the water supply had been turned off.

They turned to the police after sinking $30,000 into lawyer fees in a failed effort so far to recover some $32,500 in deposit and materials purchased out of pocket.

"This whole thing has been so emotionally draining," said Marissa. "We'd been married less than six months and we were going through this. We had worked hard for our money and we were so excited. It's been a complete nightmare ever since."

The O'Connors aren't the only young couple despairing over a lost investment in a Bourque Road home.

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.

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. The company phone number no longer answers.

On May 8, Gina Iaciafano and Greg Hattoy of North Providence saw their nearly finished home lost in an auction after the financing bank foreclosed then purchased it for $360,000.

They had invested some $140,000 into a deposit and upgrades and even made payments to subcontractors who were owed money, they said, in an effort to finally close on the home.

In the end it was foreclosed on anyway.

This week Gina told The Breeze, "Truthfully, the auction was more difficult than I expected it to be. Greg and I were attached to the house, but it was just business as usual for everyone else who came to bid. Up until that day, we were still holding out hope that we could negotiate a deal and somehow close on the home.

"Greg and I are trying to remain as optimistic as possible. This has obviously been an emotional time for us, but we're blessed in many other ways, and we're not going to fixate on the loss of the house for too long."

The couple is considering new options, including another home in Great Woods where they've formed friendships with supportive residents there.

Another who complained is Catherine Martineau and her husband. They 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 says, it cost them $30,000 more to settle up and finally move in.

Marissa and Bill O'Connor, married in August of 2011, had signed a purchase and sales agreement with Colucci Company in December of 2011 on a partially finished home with plans to close in mid-February.

The deposit was $18,500.

It had been a mild winter, Marissa said, but work on the house went slowly. When Marissa complained, she said, "they made it seem like it was us holding him back."

The Feb. 15 closing date came and went, and so did the new dates of Feb. 28, then March 8.

"We kept nagging, 'why is the house not done?'"

It was March 14 when their real estate broker drove by 56 Bourque Road to check on progress.

Not only were there no workers, but streams of water were flowing down the driveway.

Marissa says a water heater pipe installed the day before had burst in a wall and spewed 7,250 gallons of water overnight, according to the newly installed water meter.

Every room was drenched, says Marissa, who has dozens of videos of buckling walls, blistered paint and soaked floors to prove it.

Closing on the home had already been a nightmare of delays, she said.

This was the topper.

She recalls telling Tom Colucci the house was in danger of "major, major mold problems," in addition to structural issues. There was no way they'd take ownership.

They wanted out of their contract and their $18,500 deposit returned along with $7,000 in appliances and $7,000 worth of uninstalled hardwoods, all purchased out-of-pocket.

Instead, she says, the remaining hardwoods were installed, the appliances sold off and the deposit denied. On top of that, the builder sued for the $370,000 they'd agreed to pay for the house.

The house was later sold to a couple who told The Breeze the flood hadn't been disclosed to them.

New owner Kyle Marshall did say he's seen no evidence of a past problem but was happy to know about the repaired damage in case issues come up in the future.

Marissa says now that they're so deeply invested in attorney fees, not to mention smaller expenses like the mortgage fee, propane tank, and time out of work, that she feels there's no choice but to continue.

Added Marissa, "This has been the hardest time of our lives. We've never had to deal with lawyers before. All we talk about is the house and money and it's draining."

Her plea to Rhode Island Office of Attorney General echoes others': "You're supposed to be keeping Rhode Island citizens safe," she said.

Other issues connected with Great Woods:

* The town is taking the very rare step of calling the bonds on the subdivision because the roadway remains unfinished some six years after the base coat was installed.

Whether the bonds will cover will cover the roadway and holding work is unclear, but Mayor Dan McKee is saying taxpayers may be asked to approve a bond to fund what the insurance company doesn't.

* Others in this neighborhood are anxious to resolve who is responsible for a sewer pump that was supposed to be turned over to a home owners' association that was never formed.