CHARLOTTE, NC (Ely Portillo/The Charlotte Observer) - Nearly a year after it was first announced, construction has yet to start on anything beyond one model unit at Charlotte’s first “tiny house” development.
Called Keyo Park West, the 56-unit community in the northwest neighborhood of Coulwood drew criticism from neighbors who feared it could drive their home prices down. And one buyer who paid $4,000 for a lot filed legal action last month against Keyo Park West and developer Kelvin Young, claiming he hasn’t sent a promised refund and has stopped returning messages.
Now, Young’s lawyer said they’re not going ahead with the plans, though they are looking at opportunities to build tiny houses elsewhere. Tiny houses — dwellings of a few hundred square feet that are often on wheels, though Young’s would be on slab foundations — have grown in popularity since the success of HGTV shows such as “Tiny House, Big Living.”
“We are not planning on moving forward with the (Keyo) Park West project now because of the lack of clarity” about local regulations, said attorney John Snyder. Potential buyers had reserved lots last year for $4,000.
“We have refunded or are processing refunds for all 23 applicants over the course of the development,” said Snyder. Keyo Park West hasn’t taken any fees from buyers in 2018, he said.
City planning staff considered regulations this year that would have barred tiny houses in Charlotte, though they ultimately shelved the proposal in March. Deputy planning director Ed McKinney said no regulatory changes have been considered or implemented since then. The city of Charlotte hasn’t received plans for Keyo Park West to review.
Except for two empty lots, real estate records show most of the 20-acre site between Cathey and Tom Sadler roads is owned by a Florida couple. Any new project would have to comply with existing regulations that govern street connections, trees and other aspects of subdividing property for development, which hasn’t been done in Charlotte with a tiny house neighborhood.
“The development of this piece of land is not a simple thing,” McKinney told City Council members at a February meeting.
Another company affiliated with Young bought about 8 acres in Matthews this year, in several parcels around Crestdale Road, for $922,000, real estate records show. Young said he didn’t have plans to announce yet. But in an email to buyer Monique Hibma he said he was planning to build tiny homes there and in South End.
Lawsuits and project delays aren’t uncommon in the world of development, where disputes often flare over money.
A 2016 lawsuit against Young and Keyo Development Corp. from a woman claiming he never paid back a loan for a real estate investment resulted in a $31,500 judgment against the developer, Mecklenburg court records show. Young said last week that the matter had recently been settled. The plaintiff’s attorney could not be reached.
Monique Hibma filed a lawsuit against Young on July 5 in Mecklenburg County small claims court.
She and her husband first heard about Keyo Park West after an Observer story on the development last year. “We were so excited about the opportunity to do something different and outside of the box,” she said. “We really believed in the project.”
At about 500 square feet, Young’s houses promised thoughtful design in a compact footprint for under $100,000. One house, the development’s model, was sold to a buyer last year for $92,000, real estate records show.
After paying a $4,000 deposit in November and picking a lot, Hibma said they became concerned.
“It didn’t seem like things were moving along,” she said.
They requested a refund, and a February email filed with her lawsuit shows Young wrote that the refund was coming.
“I’m a get your check out first of the week,” Young wrote on Feb. 22. Hibma said they never got the check.
“That’s when we stopped hearing from him,” she said. Her case is set for a hearing in late August. Young attributed the delay to problems with required paperwork, and said Snyder said they had not seen the lawsuit.
Court records show several attempts to serve Young at different addresses failed.
“We have paperwork that everyone is supposed to fill out and they haven’t filled it out,” said Young.
Snyder said that according to their contracts, buyers weren’t entitled to a refund, because the $4,000 was a fee, not a deposit. But he said Young is refunding everyone because he wants to do business “with goodwill and good faith.”
Young is turning away potential buyers from Keyo Park West, Snyder said, though websites advertising the development remain online.
“When we get leads, we say there’s nothing available in KPW now,” he said.