A partially completed 55-and-over condominium complex in Plymouth’s upscale Pinehills development is set to be auctioned next month because of its developer’s financial difficulties, leaving homeowners who’ve settled in facing an uncertain future.
Seton Highlands, a 60-acre development site that is part of The Pinehills, was purchased by Abbott Development, a Boston-based firm, in 2005. Three years into the project, Abbott began experiencing financial difficulties with the Plymouth project, and building virtually stopped with only 38 units finished and sold. The complex is permitted for 123 units.
While the condo owners were aware of Abbott’s money problems, they were surprised to see a December legal advertisement announcing that the property would be auctioned. The auction date has since been postponed twice, with a May 10 date now set. Abbott Homes-Plymouth LLC, the company Abbott created for Seton Highlands, has declared bankruptcy.
Ronald Kirn, who sits on the Seton Highlands homeowners’ association advisory committee, said he and his neighbors are happy to live in the 3,000-acre Pinehills and have been working hard to keep their complex afloat.
“The majority of us like living in The Pinehills,’’ Kirn said. “Seton Highlands is the exception to The Pinehills, and it’s all because of Abbott. The company took this community and put it in the toilet.’’
The homeowners have been forced to pay for repairs, chipping in assessments to take care of the work. Kirn said those issues should have been handled by Abbott. “We put about $135,000 of our own money into it,’’ he said. “We’ve done everything under the sun to hold things together as money was dwindling.’’
Bills, such as insurance, water and sewer fees, and general maintenance, must be covered while Abbott Development settles its affairs, Kirn said.
“We’ve put off the annual condominium association meeting until after the May auction to see what happens,’’ he said. “Our monthly homeowners’ fees could go up to $700 to pay the bills. That’s the reality of the situation. We just can’t shut down.’’
Abbott principal Jim McAuliffe declined to comment on Kirn’s assertions, but said his company is going to refinance its debt and settle its affairs soon.
“We hope to purchase the note from [lender] Wells Fargo and refinance the project with someone else, and we’re close to accomplishing that,’’ McAuliffe said.
Kirn said he hopes Abbott walks away from the project.
“We’ve been told there may be a new investor,’’ Kirn said. “But if they bring back Abbott, that would not be popular with anyone in Seton Highlands.’’
Fellow condominium owner Bob Maguire said he worries about his investment.
“When we saw what was happening with Abbott, we tried to jump two years ago, but you couldn’t sell,’’ he said. “These units originally sold for $500,000 to $900,000. I’m worried now that the place is just floating and Abbott is in bankruptcy. I’m a retired teacher and my wife is a nurse. We can’t afford to go down with the ship.’’
Maguire said he hoped The Pinehills would step in. “I don’t think Pinehills will let us go down,’’ he said.
But Pinehills president John Judge said his company would not intervene.
“The Pinehills is not set up as a home-building company,’’ he said. “We’re a land-development company and what they need is a home-building company. We’ve never built a home.’’
Judge added he expects the difficulties in Seton Highlands to be resolved in the future.
“These things have a tendency to work themselves out over time,’’ Judge said. “It’s clear Abbott is in a tough situation, and this will have to run its course.’’
Seton Highlands resident Keven Joyce said he’s been disappointed with the lack of support from The Pinehills.
“This is a black eye on The Pinehills community,’’ Joyce said. “. . . Instead of helping us, The Pinehills has taken Seton Highlands off the website map. We feel abandoned here.’’
Judge said The Pinehills, as a licensed real estate broker, took Seton Highlands off the website’s marketing map after Abbott Development declared bankruptcy. “With the property under Chapter 11, we are unable to represent that a builder can build new homes when he cannot,’’ Judge said.
Plymouth officials said they had been unaware of the drama playing out at The Pinehills. “If Abbott is failing, they’ll want to get someone in quickly and not have this kind of blemish on The Pinehills,’’ said Planning Board member Marc Garrett.
Judge said the Seton Highlands situation does not reflect on The Pinehills. “The Pinehills success continues to be very strong,’’ he said.
The sprawling development has been adding more than 100 homes each year, even during tough financial times. To date, more than 1,500 of the 3,000 planned are already built.
Selectmen chairman Bill Hallisey called the situation with Abbott unfortunate.
“Hopefully someone of good will pick it up and run with it,’’ he said of the complex. “The Pinehills has done a fabulous job.’’
Hallisey added that requirements for all builders in The Pinehills, put in by the development’s management as well as by the town, “should keep [Seton Highlands] on track to being what it should be.’’
Christine Legere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.