Lennar built homes on land littered with live bombs

art.dig_.cnn_-1, Lennar built homes on land littered with live bombs, Archives 1976-2008 Local News & Views
Live bombs were found in and around a brand new upscale subdivision built in Orlando, Florida, by Lennar Homes, the same developer that is preparing to build 1,600 new homes in the Hunters Point Shipyard.

by Willie Ratcliff

I thought the most horrifying story about Lennar’s corrupt construction practices was the subdivision it built on its own dump full of rubber tires in Florida. Now a new Florida debacle beats that one.

The Orlando Sentinel reported on Nov. 17: “On Nov. 6, a 23-pound fragmentation bomb was found 2 feet under the dirt in the yard of a house under construction in the Warwick section of Vista Lakes. … It was found by munitions workers hired by the building company, Lennar Homes.”

According to the Sentinel, “The ‘frag’ bomb – designed to shatter its metal shell upon detonation – is among a long list of munitions used at the site during training in the 1940s. Other ordnance includes bombs up to 500 pounds, rockets, rifle grenades and incendiary bombs designed to ignite superhot chemical fires that are difficult to extinguish.”

Lennar’s Warwick subdivision in Orlando is brand new and very upscale – like the homes Lennar plans to build in the Hunters Point Shipyard.

Discovery of the 23-pound fragmentation bomb “forced evacuations within 1,000 feet of the bomb, affecting several homes and a day care center,” Orlando’s WESH Channel 2 reported.

On Oct. 11, according to Channel 6, “families from the Warwick subdivision met with Lennar officials to discuss fears that they may be living near or on top of buried explosives.

“Lennar home builders told the homeowners that a munitions consultant they recently hired identified metal objects on all 54 of their home sites.

“‘What happens next is that we go in and start digging these things out of the ground,’ Lennar Division President Wayne Broedel said.

“The digging will uproot lawns and could venture under foundations, the report said.

“‘Who knows where they are going to be next?’ homeowner Christopher Schoembohm said. ‘Are they going to be under my house or somebody else’s house?’

“Neighbors said they are worried about the danger and falling property values.

“‘I just don’t want my house to go down in value because of all this,’ Warwick homeowner Scott Fritz said. ‘That is my main concern.’

“‘I really am concerned about the safety for myself, my wife and my dog,’ resident Ron Huff said.”

In an Oct. 16 newscast, Channel 13 reported, “Lennar Homes told News 13 that they will dig up anything made of metal.”

Recounting the history of the site, Channel 6 reported: “The U.S. Army used the land near Odyssey Middle School as a bombing range until 1946. The year after that, three boys playing near the site were crippled by a live explosive but the land was not declared a potential danger by the Army Crops of Engineers until last year.”

“World War II-era rockets and a grenade were found buried underground this week about 1,000 feet behind Odyssey Middle School and just yards from the Warwick subdivision.”

It was in the playground of the school, built in 2001, that bombs were first found. “Since July of this year, landscapers and the Army Corps of Engineers have found several military munitions at the site, including fuses, grenades and live bombs,” reported Channel 2.

In its Nov. 17 story, the Orland Sentinel wrote: “The latest discovery was outside the area where the corps has been hunting for signs of bombs since July, when it was revealed that there were live bombs on property behind Odyssey Middle.”

The search at the school is far from over, reports the Sentinel: “Starting Monday, the Army Corps plans to hunt for bombs on the grounds of Odyssey Middle School while the children are on Thanksgiving break.”

The story quotes a nearby resident whose home had not yet been checked: “‘Yes, they should check the school right away, but … why are they spending all that time out in the pasture land? Are they more worried about cows than people?’”

The Sentinel revealed in that story why bombs are being found outside the old bombing range: “An agreement between developers, builders and owners, signed in 1999, sets out the legal permission for the builders to take and use dirt dug up from the old bomb range for two major roads … The agreement allows the builders to use the excavated dirt and sand anywhere else needed in the neighborhood.”

“Tons of dirt excavated at the old Army bombing range in southeast Orlando was used to build nearby roads and as fill for the Vista Lakes neighborhood, according to official records,” reports the Sentinel. “World War II-era bombs, bomb fragments and related contamination could be mixed in with the soil.”

That news didn’t set well with the president of the homeowners’ association, who exclaimed, “‘There very well could be bomb material all over the place, anywhere out here.’”

The bombs are being detonated as they are discovered, no doubt an unnerving experience for the residents and the school children. WFTV Channel 9 reported Oct. 12: “The Army Corps of Engineers blew up three more bombs, Thursday, found on an old military bombing range near Odyssey Middle School. Students were let out of school just before engineers detonated the bombs in a nearby wooded area.”

On Nov. 7, Channel 9 announced: “Another bomb scare will soon lead to a new search for more bombs near Odyssey Middle School in Orange County. Tuesday, the Warwick subdivision and a daycare were evacuated before a bomb squad from Patrick Air force base detonated a 70-year-old bomb shell. …

“The Corps has said all along that homeowners in the Warwick neighborhood should have nothing to worry about. That changed Tuesday, when the WWII-era [23-pound fragmentation] bomb was dug up by a firm hired by the homebuilder, Lennar Homes.”

Check http://www.wftv.com/news/14531977/detail.html to see the elegant neighborhood Lennar built on bomb-littered ground and hear the fears of the residents who bought Lennar’s homes.

Deadly dangers lurking in dirt moved around by Lennar during a massive excavation project sounds eerily familiar to us in Hunters Point. We’ve been fighting Lennar’s criminal negligence for years.

Now that we know how that negligence has endangered an upscale white neighborhood in Florida, will anyone in Hunters Point stand up in Lennar’s defense? If Lennar will treat rich white folks with such disdain, what will it do to us, a low-income community that’s 91 percent people of color?

I’d say it’s time to run Lennar outta here!

Contact Bay View Publisher Willie Ratcliff at (415) 671-0789 or publisher@sfbayview.com.