Friday, February 3, 2023

State requested building freeze at D.R. Horton’s Hawkeswater in Brunswick County

D.R. Horton’s Hawkeswater development in Brunswick County has been out of compliance with its state-issued stormwater permit for over a year and a half, prompting the state to request a building freeze at the development in March. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)

According to the state’s environmental agency, D.R. Horton’s Hawkeswater development just outside Belville town limits has been out of compliance for over a year and a half. Meanwhile, new construction at the Brunswick County development continues.

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — In March, the state got so fed up with D.R. Horton’s pattern of non-compliance with its stormwater permit in Hawkeswater, it asked for a building freeze at the Brunswick County development.

The freeze never happened. And despite numerous violations, somehow, D.R Horton hasn’t ever been fined.

Related: Brunswick County responds to D.R. Horton suit, says it operated utility systems at a loss

At Hawkeswater, a 173-acre development across from the Brunswick River in Belville, D.R. Horton built several townhomes where it wasn’t permitted to build them and constructed an entire stormwater pond where it wanted — outside of site plans, according to the state’s recent violation notice.

‘This is not acceptable’

The interim director of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Energy, Mineral, and Land Resources (DEMLR) issued D.R. Horton a Notice of Violation on March 14 for its stormwater permit at Hawkeswater.

It included a historical chronology of the companies’ flagrant stormwater violations and failure to follow basic instructions. “DEMLR has spent countless hours attempting to communicate what is needed, and has made every effort to work with you to ensure that you understand the requirements,” the March violation states.

After receiving six incomplete modification applications, at least one Notice of Violation, two Notices of Non-Compliances and two Notices of Deficiency, DEMLR threatened issuing a civil penalty. “The project has been out of compliance for over a year and a half,” DEMLR’s March letter states. “This is not acceptable.”

If the recap didn’t catch the publicly-traded company’s attention, then the state’s request to the county certainly did: In the violation notice, the state CC’d Brunswick County’s building inspector, asking him to withhold building permits and Certificates of Occupancy.

D.R. Horton responded one week later, meeting the state’s deadline to submit a plan of action, avoiding a fine. Its application is still under review.

The company’s media director did not respond to a request, sent last week, to comment on the state’s letter.

Construction in Hawkeswater continues, despite a state Notice of Violation in March that revealed D.R. Horton never provided the state a Designer's Certification for any of the development's stormwater ponds -- a prerequisite before Certificates of Occupancy should be issued. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)
Construction in Hawkeswater continues, despite a state Notice of Violation in March that revealed D.R. Horton never provided the state a Designer’s Certification for any of the development’s stormwater ponds — a prerequisite before Certificates of Occupancy should be issued. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)

History of non-compliance

Here’s how D.R. Horton is violating 15A NCAC 02H .1001, according to DEMLR:

  • Hawkeswater constructed several ponds outside its permitted plan.
  • Hundreds of units are now built out in Hawkeswater, all without a Designer’s Certification — the state never received this certification of any of Hawkeswater’s ponds, a prerequisite required before Certificates of Occupancy are issued.
  • D.R. Horton failed to provide recorded deed restrictions
  • At least three ponds are operating in an unpermitted configuration

After obtaining the original stormwater permit, which was first issued in 2013 to Riverside Land Holding II, LLC but later lost to the bank, D.R. Horton received an unexpected state visit in August 2017. That visit resulted in Hawkeswater’s first notice of non-compliant inspection.

DEMLR saw that Hawkeswater’s plans did not match Google Earth’s satellite imagery. Stormwater ponds, including a pond built inside — rather than outside — Keekle Lane, a small loop road in the development.

Impervious surface area — hard surfaces that don’t allow stormwater to drain — was not permitted in the development’s second and third phases. After a second site visit, and a subsequent second notice of non-compliant inspection in October 2017, D.R. Horton missed its plan of action deadline to address the state’s concerns by a month.

Then, in November 2017, D.R. Horton submitted an incomplete permit modification. The company did not address three separate emails DEMLR sent to address missing information.

DEMLR issued D.R. Horton a Notice of Deficiency in December 2017. Months later, in February 2018, DEMLR accepted D.R. Horton’s conflicting and incomplete application, despite its flaws. A month later, the state requested more information from D.R. Horton, and followed up with several emails. Concerns were not addressed, according to DEMLR’s narrative.

The parties had a face-to-face on August 9, 2018. D.R. Horton obtained its permit modification in October, alongside a Notice of Continuing Deficiency. Again, the company was a month late submitting its plan of action, due in November 2018. It contained a “considerable amount of conflicting data similar to previous applications, and did not fully address the items discussed at the August 2018 meeting,” DEMLR’s narrative states.

In January 2019, DEMLR accepted a minor modification application. Predictably, the state found it did not address items previously discussed. The state returned the application, telling D.R. Horton: “It was again unclear which ponds you intended to modify because of the significant amount of conflicting, missing, and incomplete data in the package.”

At least three stormwater ponds in D.R. Horton's Hawkeswater development are currently operating in an unpermitted configuration, in violation of its state-issued stormwater permit, according to DEMLR. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)
At least three stormwater ponds in D.R. Horton’s Hawkeswater development are currently operating in an unpermitted configuration, in violation of its state-issued stormwater permit, according to DEMLR. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)

Correcting violations

Michael Slate, Brunswick County’s director of Code Administration, said the issue is between the state and the contractor.

Though the state asked Slate’s department to consider withholding building permits and Certificates of Occupancy, Slate said he didn’t think the issue was a matter of the county not taking the state’s recommendation.

“We just kind of sat back waiting on [D.R. Horton] to see what their moves were going to be,” Slate said. “ I do know that before we even come to the conclusion that we were not going to move forward with any kind of freeze out there, they were already complying with the letter that they sent out.”

Slate was not aware of any unpermitted construction at the development, as specifically referenced in DEMLR’s letter. He said if he learned more information confirming DEMLR’s complaint, the county would absolutely issue a Stop Work Order.

Christy Simmons, spokesperson for the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, confirmed “no civil penalty assessment” has been requested at the site. She added that seperately, the state’s office received a complaint from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding construction debris and trash in onsite stormwater. “Our Leland area inspector will investigate,” Simmons wrote in an email.

2019 03 NOV 130412 by Johanna Ferebee on Scribd


Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at johanna@localvoicemedia.com

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