Construction halt ordered after county finds Ashton Woods building too close to neighbor’s home

Better Call Behnken

BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – Builder Ashton Woods is accused of breaking county rules when it built a house just 7 feet, 6 inches away from the next-door-neighbor’s home. The houses are supposed to be 12 feet apart.

“It’s not right,” said John Barnott, Building and Development Department Director for Manatee County. “We can’t allow it to continue.”

The county wants Ashton Woods to either tear down the house or move it over. Residents in the upscale community of Rosedale, near Lakewood Ranch, turned to Better Call Behnken because the builder doesn’t want to do either of the options the county proposed.

Instead, Ashton Woods is applying for a variance that would allow the builder to continue constructing the home without moving it.

“It was just crushing,” said Kirk Tcherneshoff, who recently moved next door with his wife. “It really has devastated us. It has been a stress on my life every day since we’ve been here.”

The Tcherneschoffs relocated from Alabama. When they purchased their home from a different builder, Lennar Homes, there was just vacant corner lot next door.

They knew a home would go there eventually, the couple was still wrapping up affairs in Alabama and rented out their home for about eight months, they say.

“The renter called and said, ‘This house going up next door looks really close,'” Tcherneschoff said. “I thought, well, all the homes in Florida are close.”

But when he came to Florida to see for himself in November, he says he was shocked.

“My original reaction was one of incredible sadness because we’ve worked all these years to be able to live in a community like this, and hopefully be able to retire in a few years and think what’s to become of the value of our home,” he said.

He took out his tape measure: 7 feet, 6 inches is all the space separating the two homes. He called Manatee County officials, and the builder was immediately ordered to halt construction.

Barnott said he’d like to see the house torn down and another home built the correct way – with 12 feet between homes. If that can’t be done, he said, the builder will need to figure out how to move it.

However, those suggestions were made last November, and nothing has happened on the site since then. In fact, neighbors complain that the grass grows high, and the place is an eyesore.

Barnott says the builder has applied for the variance and the Hearing Officer could hear the case in October.

The house, Barnott said, is 40 feet wide, and the inside of the home has not yet been constructed. Since the house is on the corner lot, there is ample room to scoot the home over to give the neighbor’s some breathing room, he said.

If the variance were to be approved, Barnott said Ashton Woods would be required to add a 1-hour fire break wall.

That is not good enough, Tcherneshoff said.

“We have to obey a lot of rules to live here,” he said. “They shouldn’t get away with breaking the rules.”

Investigative Consumer Reporter Shannon Behnken left numerous messages for Ashton Woods representatives, seeking comment. Darryl Colwell, Division Manager, based in Tampa, sent an email that said:

“Ashton Woods follows local zoning requirements and building codes.  We are actively working with Manatee County and proceeding through the appropriate process to resolve the matter for all involved.”

A plot plan, obtained from county records, shows that 12-feet is required between the homes.

The big question is how the home got this far along in construction before the county caught this grave mistake. That is something Better Call Behnken is continuing to investigate.

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