Friday, August 7, 2009

Red Letter House

I’ve received a lot of calls and emails as of late pertaining to the home on Maynard Road whose owner, Mr. David Bowden, determined that the most effective manner in which to voice his displeasure with the town was to spraypaint “Screwed by the Town of Cary” in bold bright red letters on the front of his house. Well, actually he didn’t do it – he paid a painter $200 to do it for him. Mr. Bowden claims that the widening of Maynard Road to 4 lanes has caused significant water damage to his home.

Let me start by saying I feel for Mr. Bowden, and all of the residents negatively impacted by the Maynard Road widening for that matter. I really do. I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to have a four lane thoroughfare thrown in your front yard and having to live with the increase in noise, traffic, and loss of privacy that comes along with it. While I was not on the council when the project was approved, I don’t believe the project should have caught folks by surprise either as Maynard Road has been planned to become a four lane thoroughfare since the adoption of Cary’s Thoroughfare Plan back in 1967. And while the town’s thoroughfare plan has been updated over the years, Maynard has always been dentified as a four lane thoroughfare or greater. In 1999 voters overwhelmingly approved a bond referendum which listed widening Maynard Road as a potential project.

Since taking office I have met with a number of Maynard Road residents – including Mr. Bowden – and have worked to help address their issues and concerns. Some were relatively minor problems – others a bit more complicated. A couple of times it was simply a matter of putting the resident in contact with the appropriate staff member or department.

After being contacted by Mr. Bowden I gladly met with him at his home to hear his concerns and to see things for myself. While there were obvious signs of water damage to Mr. Bowden’s home (rotted siding, mold, etc…) a number of things just didn’t add up with Mr. Bowden’s claims that the widening of Maynard Road was responsible for his water problems. The rotted siding in the carport area for example had clearly been rotting for years. I asked Mr. Bowden if he had any photographs of his home taken before the road widening project began. He did, and low and behold one photograph clearly showed rotting siding in the carport area.

When the town performed a survey of Mr. Bowden’s home in 2008, it was determined that a clogged gutter downspout was most likely responsible for water entering his crawlspace. Mr. Bowden claimed this was not the case as he “had never had a problem with his gutters”. However, seeing first hand the trees – yes trees – growing from Mr. Bowden’s gutters I respectfully disagreed and asked when the last time he had them cleaned was. Come to think of it, I don’t remember ever getting an answer to that question. Anyways, it does appear however that sometime between my visit to his home and the media’s he has since had his gutters cleaned…or at least removed the trees. Maybe the ‘sign painter’ removed them, I don’t know.

There were other obvious signs of neglect such as mildew/mold growing all over the siding (you can clearly see it here), the back yard was littered with limbs and tree debris and the grass hadn’t been cut in ages. Siding all around the home was rotting (gotta love masonite) and in desperate need of paint. It was clear that regular home maintenance was not high up on Mr. Bowden’s ‘to do list’.

The town also states they have observed Mr. Bowden’s property during heavy rainfalls and have witnessed only normal water levels in the yard – no standing or deep water.

I promised Mr. Bowden I would do what I could to help. I met with our town manager and engineers to discuss the situation and possible solutions. Staff determined that constructing a trench drain would help divert water away from his home, and that the town was willing to cover the costs. NOTE: Town engineers do not believe this to be necessary as the engineering study shows the water situation to be better now than pre-road widening. However I was very glad to learn that the town, in an effort to satisfy Mr. Bowden's concerns, was willing to implement a fix, and I “assumed” (ya, I know) Mr. Bowden would be pleased as well. I never heard back from him…until now.

Mr. Bowden has refused to allow Town of Cary employees on his property to construct the drain, and instead is demanding that the town buy his house for $170,000 and pay him $80,000 for his “troubles”.

A few more FACTS to consider:

Mr. Bowden admits knowing that his home had water issues when he purchased it. The previous owner had installed a sump pump in the crawl space.

Mr. Bowden stated that shortly after purchasing his home he excavated the foundation to further waterproof.

Simply put – this house has had water issues from day one.

Looking back at my meeting with Mr. Bowden what I find most interesting now was a more casual disussion we had in which he spoke about his online ‘friend’ and his quest to buy a Dodge Viper. I remember thinking to myself, “Really? What does a 60+ year old retiree need a Dodge Viper for? I get the friend part. ;-)

But now I get it. It all makes sense. Mr. Bowden isn't looking for help. He's looking to leave - quick. What he wants is a new life and he is trying to strong arm the town into buying it for him. He’s unhappy living in his current home. He’s tired of dealing with ongoing water problems and feels he cannot sell his home for what it is, or was once worth. (NOTE: home was purchased in 1986 for $88,000 – Tax value currently $177,000) He hates living on a four lane thoroughfare. He even went so far as to tell the media he wants to use the money buy a motor home to travel the country. And yes, he was serious about the Dodge Viper because a beautiful new Plymouth Prowler ($35,000+ sports car) has recently appeared in his driveway. This man doesn’t want a new house, he wants a new life. He hasn’t invested in or maintained his home for years because he hasn't cared about it for years. He just wants out, and in all honesty I can’t say that I blame him. But it is not the town’s responsibility to send him on a permanent vacation.

As I said earlier I have spoken to and worked with many along Maynard Road and heard loud and clear their disdain of having to live through the construction, and in some cases having to live there now. Quite frankly I’ve never heard of any road widening/construction project that was ‘pleasant’. While they typically benefit the masses, they often punish the few….a lot. I do believe however that the town has tried very hard to address concerns and issues that have arisen, while at the same time working under state and federal regulations.

The town is, and has been very willing to help address Mr. Bowden’s water problems. Heck, some general repairs here and there, paint and a little landscaping it could be a real nice home again…if he wanted it. The 35 grand spent on the Prowler might even cover the costs. But I guess it all depends on what your priorities are.

While I do not approve of what Mr. Bowden has painted on the side of his home, I do support his right to free speech. There are however more appropriate ways in which to get your point across.

If nothing else good comes out of all this, I at least hope this serves as a lesson to other potential homebuyers. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Take the time to review transportation and land use plans. Speak with a planner or engineer in the city you are buying in. Ask questions – lots of them. What you see today may not be what is planned for tomorrow.