Unfinished business: Incomplete homes in community west of Boynton rile residents, plummet values

Article Courtesy of  The Palm Beach POst

By Mike Diamond

Published June 21, 2019


John and Lisa Glennon fell in love with The Estates of Boynton Waters.

The location near the Jog Road and Boynton Beach Boulevard intersection west of Boynton Beach was ideal. Their home was customized, which most builders of developments won’t do. There was no golf course to maintain. The amenities — two tennis courts, a clubhouse, a gym — were appealing. So they bought a house in October of 2006 from builder John Kennelly for $790,492.


Big mistake, they say.

That’s because Kennelly has left 22 homes out of 130-plus in various stages of completion the past 10 years. Some have no roofs; others have no doors or garages. And still others are nearly finished but no effort has been made to obtain a certificate of occupancy (CO) for them.

Five homes without a roof are so unsafe the county at this point is looking for a contractor to demolish them. If it receives “responsive” bids on June 20, it expects the demolitions to begin around August 1 but residents say they’ll believe it when they see it.

The demolitions were supposed to take place in 2016 but County Building Department Director Doug Wise, over the objections of homeowners, gave Kennelly a two-year extension to obtain COs. That was supposed to happen by May 11, 2018. It didn’t and, as a result, the county authorized Wise to take the homes down.

“We cannot understand why county government has ignored us for so long,” said Hess, who claims residents first began complaining to the county in 2009.

Alan Hess passes by an unfinished home on his street in Estates of Boynton Waters in Boynton Beach.


Wise sympathizes with the residents. The county hired him in 2013 and he says he became aware of issues in 2015. He said it is a very time-consuming process to get the necessary approvals and permits to demolish structures.


Residents fear the worst if a hurricane hits the area. A County Building Department staff report noted in April 2018 that the builder’s own engineer acknowledges the temporary bracing used to secure some of the structures are not designed to withstand “severe natural weather.”

“It really is like living in Nuremberg after World War II,” said Alan Hess, a long-time resident.

Dangerous hurricane conditions

The residents note that the problem isn’t just the five homes to be demolished. “They all need to be finished,” said Hess, who has been leading the fight with Wise to enforce the building code.

The financially distressed Kennelly lost a number of commercial and residential properties in Palm Beach and Broward counties in 2015 when eight of his companies filed for bankruptcy. A $38 million judgment forced the properties into auction. Kennelly gave up some homes in Boynton Waters but he was able to retain control of 58 of the 130-plus buildable lots; some are vacant lots. Kennelly controls the homeowners association. Repeated efforts to obtain comment from Kennelly were unsuccessful. However, three years ago he told the Sun-Sentinel he expected to find buyers for all of the unfinished homes by early 2017.

A Post reporter and photographer walked the development June 7 with a number of residents and a professional engineer, who asked not to be identified. He said the homes with missing garage doors, front doors and windows are even more unsafe than structures with no roofs. That is because hurricane-force winds could blow off a roof as wind will be directed upward by closed walls, he noted.

Some unfinished homes had sides with a disintegrating tar-paper roof. A large can was sitting atop a roof. Hess said vagrants once broke into an unfinished home adjacent to his. He confronted them and they left once he told them that he had called the police.

Sinking values in a booming market

The Glennons say they live near two of the shell homes; one is across the street and the other is a one lot away. Just imagine how depressing it is every day to come out of your house, look across the street and see these shells, they said.

“We had hoped to downsize by now,” Lisa Glennon said, “but we can’t do that.”

The Glennons’ $800,000 home has a market value of $462,427, according to the county appraiser’s office. Hess paid $670,000 for his house in 2005. It has a current market value of $362,010. Judy Malarkey, who assesses homes in the area for the county appraiser’s office, said the unfinished homes have depressed market values by as much as 25 percent.

It is a triple hit for county taxpayers:

  • The county collects less in property taxes from the homes that are on the tax rolls.

  • The county can only assess the unfinished homes as vacant lots regardless of how close they are to being finished. There are at least 10 homes whose exteriors are complete. Missing is electric.

  • The builder has failed to pay taxes on many of the homes he has completed. According to the county tax collector’s database, the builder’s tax delinquencies for homes and lots under his control totaled nearly $400,000 as of June 6, 2019.

Doug Plean, a Realtor for the past 30 years who also lives in the development, called the situation “bizarre.”

“I have never seen anything like it. We are in a booming real estate market,” Plean said. “There are builders out there that would buy these unfinished homes in a heartbeat. He just won’t sell to them. It does not make any sense.”

Plean bought a bank-owned home at Boynton Waters three years ago for $390,000. Ten years earlier, the 2,524-square-foot home sold for $775,000. Plean bought it because he is confident that at some point the homes will get finished. When that happens, property values will significantly increase, he said.

But, as Plean noted, who knows when that will happen?

And about those amenities that seemed so appealing to the Glennons. The tennis courts are unplayable, the gym is locked, the swimming pool is often not swimable and a 14-year-old clubhouse is not being maintained.

The one positive? The HOA monthly fees are a bargain at $153.81.