Sunday, October 18, 2009

Suit, criminal charges target developer

The city of Tuscaloosa has issued a stop work order on construction at Jamestown Villas located at the end of Sixth Street East.
By Jason Morton Staff Writer
Published: Saturday, October 17, 2009 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 17, 2009 at 12:09 a.m.
TUSCALOOSA | Northport-based Burns Construction Co. faces a civil lawsuit and misdemeanor criminal charges over erosion issues at the site of Jamestown Villas, a 23-acre residential development off Crescent Ridge Road.

Charges: The city issued an order to stop work on a subdivision because of
erosion-control concerns, but says Burns Construction Co. ignored the order and continued working.

the developer says: The only work done after the stop-work order was to improve erosion control and says the site has been found to be in compliance with soil erosion rules.

A.C. and Doris Whitley filed the lawsuit in circuit court, claiming soil runoff from the site has damaged their adjoining property.
The criminal charges stem from Burns’ alleged refusal to comply with a stop-work order the city issued, citing erosion control violations. The Office of the City Engineer issued the order on Sept. 25.
Jimmy Burns, the owner and developer of the 90-unit garden home subdivision, said the court actions are the result of political and personal agendas.
“Any runoff was because of excessive rainfall,” Burns said, noting the extreme rainfall totals that West Alabama has tallied in recent weeks. “You can do all that you can do, but it’s not going to stop [the runoff from] 10.2 inches of rain in two days. ...“This is all a political ploy, just for some people to get their name in the paper.”
But City Engineer Joe Robinson said the municipal complaint was filed after the city learned Burns had continued to work on the Jamestown Villas site after being served with the stop-work order.
“He removed the stop-work order sign and then he continued to work on items other than the erosion control,” Robinson said.
Burns is denying the allegations, saying that his only work on the site following the stop-work order was to improve erosion control measures.
“I intend to fight [it] to the fullest,” said Burns, who pleaded not guilty Oct. 5 and is scheduled for a hearing in
November, “because I’m right and I’m going to prove I’m right.”
Burns also said he has spoken with the Whitleys, Cumberland Road residents who own 28 acres adjacent to the Jamestown Villas site, and said he believes they were pushed into the lawsuit.
Burns would not say who he thought was behind the lawsuit, however.
The suit, filed Oct. 2, claims that since June, when Burns Construction began clearing the land for the subdivision, soil, mud and debris has been washing onto the Whitleys’ property.
“The quantity of the silt, sediment and mud from the [Burns’] development is so great that it has caused substantial harm to the recreational and aesthetic attributes of [the Whitleys’] property,” the suit said. “The stream, wetland area, and ... pond on the [Whitleys’] property has been destroyed by the accumulation of large quantities of mud and silt.
“The release and discharge of sediments, mud and silt ...recurs upon each rainfall event.”
Burns said the site has been inspected by engineers for the city of Tuscaloosa, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and all have found the development to be in compliance with current soil erosion control rules. The city lifted the stop-work order on Oct. 9.
Reach Jason Morton at or 205-722-0200.

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