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Homeowners Fight To Get Falling Retaining Wall Fixed, Before It's Too Late

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FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) - Homeowners in north Fort Worth are fighting to keep their family safe. A 15-foot retaining wall in their backyard is on the verge of collapsing and they say no one is stepping up to help them.

In just the few short weeks, CBS 11 I-Team Investigative Reporter Mireya Villarreal has been working on this story, the ground above the retaining wall has sunk more than six feet. At this point, it's not a matter of if this wall will fall, it's when.

Elias and Kristyn Irizarry had big plans for their home, a home that sits on the Fossil Creek Golf Course.

"When I came into this home I had I looked at a kitchen that I knew my family would gather in," Kristyn Irizarry told us.

But just 16 months after moving in, their plans have changed because the view from their backyard looks dramatically different.

Just a few days after that first ice storm hit North Texas in February, snow started to pile up on top of the retaining wall. When that snow started to melt, the wall couldn't take it. The Irizarrys say they've lost four feet of their backyard, but more importantly, their sense of security is now in question.

(credit: CBS 11 News)

"Do you feel safe anymore?" Mireya Villarreal asked Elias and Kristyn.

"No," Kristyn answered. "As a mom, where every day I'm seeing this wall is corroding and collapsing, I'm worried for the safety is my children and my home."

UT Arlington professor and engineering expert Dr. Anand Puppala took a look at the wall for us.

"I've seen this kinds of failures," he noted. "But the soil that is in the front of the wall is probably one of the worse ones I've seen."

He says soil, the quality of material to build the wall and proper drainage are all major factors in its failure.

"It has to be fixed. I don't think you should leave it as it is because you never know, the next rain can come and cause much more problems," Dr. Puppala explained.

But finger pointing has gotten in the way of fixing the problem. Pulte Homes built the wall 14 years ago, but say it's the Irizzarys problem because it sits on their property. Elias and Kristyn say poor construction and constant usage by the golf course is reason for the crumbling wall.

"To think, we caught this on time and yet still all of these parties are waiting for that wall to fall," Kristyn said.

The golf course's management group, Eagle Golf, says they are confident they are not "…responsible for the design, maintenance or ownership of this wall."

Pulte Homes points out in an email to us "…while the company has a long history of standing behind the quality homes we build, this is a situation in which Pulte Homes has no responsibility."

"There was a community in San Antonio where the retaining walls had failed, similar to ours," Elias told us.

A retaining wall in San Antonio collapsed back in 2010, forcing dozens of families out of their homes. That's exactly what the Irizarrys are trying to prevent.

Centex, the company which built the wall, was bought by Pulte around the same time. Even though Pulte never took responsibility for the construction of the wall, they did buy back dozens of homes affected by the failure.

"We caught this in time. It was caught in time. And in San Antonio for a lot of the home builders it wasn't," Kristyn added. "Regardless of whether you have a retaining wall, or foundation issues, or whatever, this applies to everyone. If you own a home, you could easily wake up tomorrow and be in this boat.

The Irizarry family is working with a homeowner's organization on a lemon law that would force builders to take more responsibility.

We also reached out to the City of Fort Worth to find out what kind of inspections they did on this wall. So far, no one has gotten back to us.

Statement from Eagle Golf - Scott Siddons, legal counsel for Eagle Golf:

"I want you and you viewers to know that Eagle Golf is first and foremost concerned with the safety of the homeowners and the players and guests of our golf facility and are committed to doing what we can under these circumstances to keep people out of the affected areas and out of harm's way.
It is clear to us that the original developer of the subdivision, who is identified on the plat as Pulte Homes, was bound in its development by the rules set out in the Supplemental Declaration. The Supplemental Declaration makes it clear to us that the wall in question was to be built on property that was not owned or maintained by the golf course. The retaining walls were to be designed by the original developer and approved by the architectural committee and be set back from the golf course property line.
Based on our investigation and the documents we have seen to date, Eagle Golf is confident that it is not currently, and was not in the past, responsible for the design, maintenance or ownership of this wall.
Clearly, the failure of the retaining wall has caused significant damage to the golf course property. Such damage is continuing and we believe could get substantially worse unless repairs are made immediately. Eagle Golf is currently evaluating its options with respect to how we will proceed with respect to getting the damage to the golf facilities repaired. Eagle Golf welcomes the opportunity to have frank dialogue with all of the involved parties regarding resolving this issue in the immediate future."

Statement from Pulte Homes – Jacque Petroulakis

"This home was built in 2001 and there have been multiple owners in nearly 14 years. Pulte just recently heard from, and promptly responded to, the current owner regarding the golf course retaining wall. We advised her that while the company has a long history of standing behind the quality homes we build, this is a situation in which Pulte Homes has no responsibility."

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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