Even before the first models are built, a new subdivision has become a scary neighbor for some Ahwatukee residents.
Homeowners along East Glenhaven Drive in the Foothills HOA say Blandford Homes’ repeated blasting on a 63-acre parcel on the southwest corner of Desert Foothills Parkway near Frye Road has been shaking their homes, scaring their pets and raising concerns about cracked walls and broken pipes.
The residents say the blasting — which has gone on for several months and is expected to continue for at least a few more weeks — is louder and more forceful than the year of blasting they put up with along the path of the South Mountain Freeway less than a half mile away.
They’re next door to the new development, called Palma Brisa.
Crews are taming the rugged, rocky terrain to make way for 197 new single-family houses that are expected to start going up by the end of the year.
Residents said the blasting is nothing like what Blandford told them in letters to expect.
“They said it wouldn’t be any more of a vibration than the big truck going down our street,” said Joan Stern. “They said certainly it won’t be anything like the (Loop) 202 blasting, but this is much worse.”
Stern said her house often vibrates from the blasts and that “one time I heard something snap in my kitchen, like a rafter or something. I couldn’t find what it was but it has me concerned.”
Stern, who has lost knickknacks that shattered on the floor after blast vibrations knocked them off a shelf, said she’s concerned the blasts will crack her pool or pipes running beneath the foundation of her home.
Those fears were echoed by her neighbors, some of whom have watched in distressed as water in their pools sloshed at times from the force of some blasts.
“I call it ‘the bombing,’” said Pam Barry. “The blasting for the 202 was never as loud as this.”
She and resident Pat Marn noted that freeway developers Connect202Partners always sounded an alarm before each blast—something, they said, Blandford never does, although the developer issues a weekly warning to residents to expect blasting is anticipated that week.
Other than that general weekly notification, the residents say, the blasting comes without warning—usually late in the morning, though sometimes in the early afternoon.
As Connect202Partners did before it started the freeway blasting, Blandford notified residents within 300 feet of Palma Brisa around the beginning of the year of the work and offered pre-blast inspections of their homes.
Marn said she was out of town when those letters were delivered and she has tried in vain to have her home inspected for more than a month.
“They don’t even return my calls,” she said.
That typifies Blandford’s overall response to their complaints about the force of the blasts, the residents said.
They complained their calls usually aren’t returned and when they are, they get a less than sympathetic response.
“They tell us they’re within legal limits and that if we’re afraid something will fall,” said Stern, recalling one conversation she had:
“I told the girl who answered, ‘I know it’s not your fault, but this was a bad blast and I don’t appreciate having my stuff broke.’ She just said, well, ‘I guess you better box up your stuff if you don’t want it broken.’”
“What am I supposed to do? Live out of boxes in my own home until they’re done?” she added.
Stern also said she was told that the company was not responsible for that kind of damage, she said.
The residents’ complaints are news to both Eric Williams, who is overseeing the development for Blandford, and Bill Fautsch, president of the Foothills Homeowners Association board.
Though Stern said she’s tried to complain at past HOA board meetings but was waved off, Fautsch told AFN:
“If I even was aware of it, I would have just called Jeff Blandford myself and see what we could work out. We have a relationship, but this is the first time I’m hearing about the blasting.”
Williams said residents can call Blandford’s on-site project manager or the homebuilders’ customer service department and that his company will come to inspect a home any time.
“It’s surprising to hear this,” Williams said. “There’s a number for somebody over there to call and they’ll come by and look and inspect everything.”
He also characterized the blasts as “less than a sonic boom over the house.”
Williams said the blasting has been necessary because the site is a geological nightmare.
“We have to get the sewer and water lines in first and that’s why we’ve needed to blast,” said Williams.
It is so hilly and rocky that the consultant who worked for Tempe Union on putting the site up for auction two years ago had advised officials to expect as much as $10 million less than the $23 million that Blandford ended up paying for the site.
The school district had bought the land years ago for a third high school in Ahwatukee, but changing demographics made that unnecessary. Tempe Union can use the money only for capital projects or to pay off bond debt, under state law.
Williams said Blandford will soon be build five model homes but that it needs city permits before it can start constructing houses for sale. Pricing has not yet been determined.
Meanwhile, Glenhaven residents want Blandford to use less powerful charges, but say they are frustrated that no one will listen to them.
They say their windows have rattled with some of the blasts and that other times, it feels like the whole house is shaking.
“I’m afraid my pool will crack and how am I going to prove it was caused by a blast?” said Lee Burton, who, like Stern and Marn, has lived on Glenhaven for more than two decades.
Though he can’t definitively say his home so far has sustained any damage, Burton’s son, Chris Burton, believes a pee-existing crack in the wall has gotten bigger since the blasting began.
Blasting isn’t their only problem.
The dust that has been generated from the site has been almost intolerable, they said.
“They’re not keeping up with the water trucks,” said Lee Burton, referring to a county air quality requirement that crews tamp down dirt with water to curb pollution.
As a result, the residents said, dust has immeasurably increased in their homes and their pools.
“I have to backwash my pool every 10 days or so now, and I have a brand-new filter,” Burton said. “Before I did it maybe every three or four months.”
But it’s the prospect of broken underground pipes and cracks in their pools and walls that have residents the most upset—that and the overall reduction in their quality of life.
When the blasting isn’t rupturing the late morning quiet, they said, huge trucks rumbling across the site late at night or virtually at sunrise and disrupting traffic have also taken their toll.
“It’s just so disheartening,” said Burton. “We’ve lived out here for all these years and I’ve loved it. And then you get a big builder like that come in with no concern for us.”