And now the few residents of the unfinished neighborhood are hoping a new developer comes in to help revive the stalled project and revive their dreams of a stress-free retirement.
More than 50 lots at the partially developed Villas at Dogwood will be auctioned off in foreclosure next week.
Since it launched around 2007, the three-phase, 55-and-over development off Hull Street Road never got off the ground as planned or as advertised.
The plan called for 97 lots with homes starting in the low $200,000 range to be sold to customers 55 or older.
Residents would pay $200 per month toward the beloved “maintenance-free” lifestyle, which covers tasks such as power washing exterior walls and mowing grass. That fee also was to go toward use of a community pool, tennis court, fitness center and clubhouse.
But a lawsuit filed in Chesterfield County Circuit Court in August alleges that some of that maintenance wasn’t getting done. And the pool and tennis court were never built.
Only about 20 homes were built, six of which are unoccupied models, according to one resident.
On Wednesday, the development’s website was down, and its phone number was disconnected.
James Pron, a current resident, filed the lawsuit against the community’s homeowners association and one of its developers, Bob Hanratta, because of the unfinished work and alleged unfulfilled promises.
The suit, which is still open, asked to the court to order the developer to provide all services promoted and required by the homeowners association agreement and, if necessary, to appoint a receiver to collect the monthly dues.
Hanratta “didn’t come through with anything he promised out here,” said Pron, 59. “And we haven’t seen him since I don’t when.”
Pron has his theories on why things stalled at the development.
“You can blame part of it on the economy,” Pron said. “But there was more to it than that. I think [Hanratta] was just stretched a little thin. I think he was in over his head.”
Hanratta could not be reached, but federal court records show that he and business partners were sued in federal court in 2009 by Wachovia for allegedly defaulting on millions of dollars in construction loans related to an Outer Banks condo development.
Pron said he finally stopped paying the $200 monthly fee.
“We weren’t getting anything for it,” he said.
And he still isn’t sure how the money was being used.
“Everything we finally got we had to fight for,” Pron said. “We had to go to the county to get our grass cut.”
The only actual service or amenity that materialized was trash service, Pron said, not nearly enough to make his $200 per month fee worthwhile.
The foreclosed properties at Dogwood will be auctioned off March 4 at the Chesterfield Courthouse. The auction will include more than 50 individual lots, an 8.55 acre adjacent undeveloped parcel and the clubhouse, which was locked and dark during business hours Wednesday.
According to the foreclosure notice, the development never received a final certificate of occupancy for the clubhouse.
Pron says he and his fellow residents must wait and see what happens at the auction. He said there will be interest from other developers to finish what Hanratta started.
“We feel confident someone will come in and take over the development,” Pron said. “We’ve seen a lot of traffic out here lately, so something is going on.”
And for Pron, who has lived there since 2007, there is still a bit of disbelief as to how things have played out in the Villas at Dogwood.
“If it weren’t so serious, it would be a big joke,” Pron said. “We could have a miniseries on it.”
Clarification: This story corrects a previous version that stated the fitness center, pool and tennis court were never built at Villas at Dogwood. The fitness does in fact exist inside the community’s club house.
The original story also stated only that the lawsuit was filed against Hanratta. The first defendant of the suit was the Dogwood homeowners association. Hanratta, as president of that association, was as named in the suit.
Michael Schwartz is a BizSense reporter. Please send news tips to [email protected].