2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner


Published: April 8, 2013, 12:02 pm, by Bill Vogrin
Tom Fendon

Tom Fendon

Tom Fendon fears he and his neighbors in the Dublin Terrace Townhomes are trapped in a “worst-case scenario.”

You may know this complex as the “Too Tall Townhomes.” It’s the place near Dublin and Powers boulevards with 15 completed buildings housing 56 units plus three unfinished buildings that ignited a controversy last May.

That’s when the city discovered the developer had deviated dramatically from approved plans and built structures that were too big and on a grade too high.

Fendon became despondent after a decision March 26 by the City Council to deny a variance that would have allowed the townhomes to remain, as is.

“A worst-case scenario is going to come to fruition here,” Fendon said. “They are going to just wash their hands and it will sit as it is for eternity.”

Fueling Fendon’s fear is the fact that the developer Todays Homes and its parent company, Unity Builders Group of Calgary, Canada, abruptly declared bankruptcy after the city ordered the too-talls removed.

The three "too tall" townhome buildings dwarf the single-family homes across the fence.

The three “too tall” townhome buildings dwarf the single-family homes across the fence.

And Fendon knows the Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank, which now owns the too-talls, has threatened to simply walk away and let the buildings rot if the variance was denied. It maintains the cost of moving the buildings — two are move-in ready and even furnished — is too steep to justify.

Fendon blames the owners of single-family homes dwarfed by the three too-tall townhomes.

While he’s sympathetic, Fendon said the owners are being unreasonable. Their refusal to compromise, he said, is dooming his property values and his hopes of ever selling his townhome.

“They are never going to give up,” Fendon said. “They want them torn down. Nobody is going to take on the expense of doing that. We’re all going to suffer.”

In fact, an El Paso County assessor visited the complex recently and told Fendon his property value will be lowered due to the three vacant buildings and the uncertainty of their fate.

“They will definitely bring down our values,” he said.

Side by Side DrawingsWhat happens next is a bit of a mystery.

The too-talls are under control of a court-appointed bankruptcy receiver, Andrew Checkley of MLP Receiverships in St. Louis. He has 30 days to appeal the council’s decision to District Court. He declined to comment when I reached him Friday.

Peter Wysocki, city planning director, said his agency will demand action by the receiver and bank soon.

“These buildings need to be abated somehow,” he said. “Whether they can be moved, deconstructed or demolished — those are the only three options. They need to come up with a plan.”

Why do I get the feeling that Fendon is right to be scared that this mess will be with us for a long time to come?

Dublin Terrace Aerial 2012

The three too-tall townhome buildings are visible in the top, center of the photo.