Bexar County estimates the streets in Quail Run need $100,000 worth of repairs,
meaning it wonâtaccept them for maintenance. Photo: Bob Owen/
The personal bankruptcy of the developer and builder of a small subdivision in Bexar County has left in doubt who will pay for home and street repairs as well as a $320,000 court judgment â and whether building can even continue in the neighborhood.
Residents also blame the county, saying it's holding them hostage by not allowing construction until the streets are fixed.
The mess really deepened when Richard Horne filed for bankruptcy in March, about a decade after starting the high-end Quail Run subdivision east of China Grove, off U.S. 87 and Beck Road.
Quail Run's roads still have not gotten needed repairs nor passed inspection with Bexar County engineers, steps required before the county will accept the roads for maintenance. As a result, the county won't allow permits for new homes on the most recently purchased lots in the custom-home neighborhood.
Horne's bankruptcy also means a married couple who own a home in Quail Run, Jeff Kleindienst and Kathleen Wisely, who have a judgment of about $320,000 against him, will be unable to collect.
âHorne has really impacted our lives in such a negative way. It's just a mess,â said Kleindienst, a veteran who moved to Bexar County from Portland, Ore., hoping for a happy retirement. âFinancially, it wiped us out. I don't know what we're going to do. I really don't.â
Horne is in declining health and was unable to answer questions. His wife, Lynell Horne, said he has not been able to work for a few years.
The economic downturn has hit some in the building industry hard, even in relatively healthy San Antonio. Builder and developer bankruptcies haven't been widespread here, but there are several examples of well-known companies shutting down. Casa Linda Remodeling and Dream Decks closed their doors last year. And James âGregâ Mikesell, whose homebuilding company flamed out in 2008 amid customer and subcontractor complaints, received probation this year after pleading no contest to ripping off an elderly customer.
In Quail Run, Horne has offered the county $20,000 toward street repairs â nowhere near the $100,000 the county estimates is needed.
The county has stopped issuing septic system and driveway permits in the neighborhood for people who bought lots after April 2010, when the street problems were identified, in hopes it can still pressure Horne to pay for the work. There are about 70 lots in the neighborhood, and 47 have been issued septic permits, according to the county.
Neither Quail Run Construction, which Horne owns, nor his wife's Quail Run Development have filed for bankruptcy protection.
âAt this point, he's still a viable developer with a presence in the community,â said County Engineer Renee Green. âWe need to see what we can do to get him to fix the streets.â
The street issues in Quail Run came to light as part of a review in the spring of 2010, when the county identified 121 subdivisions in unincorporated areas whose streets and drains had been out of warranty for at least two years. The county was able to coax most developers to address their street repairs by threatening to withhold permits, but that didn't work at Quail Run.
Since the development is mostly custom-home lots and not the usual volume-builder model, Bexar County officials were left to withhold permits from lot owners instead. The April 2010 cutoff date was an attempt to not punish people who have had lots in the neighborhood for some time, allowing at least those who owned lots before that date to move forward with building their homes.
Quail Run Development still owns some lots in the neighborhood. Green said county officials have not made a policy decision about how to deal with street problems in the cases of âabsentee developers or developers such as Mr. Horne who have declared bankruptcy.â
So far, there is no timetable to lift the permit moratorium. Green said the county does not feel pressured to decide immediately how to deal with Quail Run's streets.
âThe streets are what they are,â Green said. âThey're not going anywhere.â
Joyce Horner is one of the residents upset by the county's actions. âThey're holding us hostage in our neighborhood,â Horner said. âA bunch of us want to meet with the county. We want to know why they're penalizing us.â
Lynell Horne said the streets in Quail Run are in better shape than many other county-maintained roads, and said the county keeps changing its mind about what it wants repaired. âThe county-maintained roads don't come up to the quality of our roads at all,â she said. âIt's up in the air because of the county. Every time you talk to them, it changes. It takes months to get a call returned.â
The small neighborhood was platted in 2001, carved out of some property the Hornes purchased from Lynell Horne's family.
According to Express-News archives, Richard Horne is a certified public accountant who built custom houses for 20 years as a hobby. Deed restrictions in Quail Run called for masonry exteriors, lots that started at 2/3 of an acre and floor plans starting at 2,000 square feet.
Horne's company built many of the homes, while some buyers purchased lots from him and hired their own builders.
âMy phone rings constantly, every day,â Horne said in 2002 during better times.
But Kleindienst and Wisely sued Richard Horne and his Quail Run Construction firm in 2006 over major construction defects in their home, including issues with the masonry, doors that were out of alignment, and foundation and drainage problems.
In late 2007, the couple won a $320,000 arbitration award against Horne and his construction firm, including court costs and attorney's fees, according to court documents, and interest has been accumulating at an annual rate of 71/2 percent.
Kleindienst said he paid a contractor about $18,000 to do home repairs, but that he and Wisely moved out because of the stress caused by living there. They rent out the house for $1,100 a month â far less than the $2,800 mortgage â and say they are struggling to make ends meet.
In bankruptcy filings, Horne said he had $151.80 in cash on hand and few assets other than tools and household goods. He claimed $407,000 in property that's exempt from bankruptcy, including a $350,000 house that still has a $250,000 mortgage. His 100 percent ownership of Quail Run Construction was valued at zero.