WEST PALM BEACH — To take a shower in his new townhouse, Jeffrey Estis performs a complicated choreography.
First he turns on the shower and watches a weak trickle of water come out. Then Estis turns on the faucets in separate bathrooms. Next he flushes a toilet. Then he turns on a third sink.
The water pressure is so low at his home at CitySide in West Palm Beach, Estis says, that he has to turn on all his faucets to trick the water pump outside into pushing enough water to his shower.
“That’s what I have to do every morning in my $500,000 home,” Estis said.
Estis blames WCI Communities Inc., the Bonita Springs-based home builder that built the development, for low water pressure and other shortcomings at CitySide, a community of three-story townhouses between Congress Avenue and Interstate 95 just south of the Palm Beach Mall.
Homeowners there complain about a number of nagging problems. WCI didn’t complete the landscaping as promised, the drainage grates rattle when car tires hit them and the gates that were to be secured with electronic key cards instead are secured with bicycle locks.
The CitySide homeowners association is considering hiring a law firm to pursue legal action against WCI (NYSE: WCI, $16.10).
The company already is being sued by the Admiral at Jupiter Yacht Club and Mariner at Jupiter Yacht Club, condo associations for two buildings next to each other on A1A.
A WCI official acknowledged problems at CitySide but said they have been fixed.
Keith Hurand, president of WCI’s South Florida operations, blamed the weak showers in part on West Palm Beach’s decision to cut water pressure amid the drought, but he said the additional water pumps installed by WCI have solved the issue.
“From what I’ve heard, that’s been addressed,” Hurand said this week.
Estis disagrees. He considers the water pumps – including one just outside his door – unsightly. And, Estis says, his water pressure remains sporadic even with the new pumps.
Estis isn’t the only homeowner at the 375-unit CitySide to complain.
Matthew Nicolosi also gripes about the poor water pressure and WCI’s lack of response to his complaints.
“I can barely take a shower,” Nicolosi said. “You call WCI, you get the royal runaround.”
Another CitySide owner, David Moya, likewise is irritated by unfinished tasks such as the lack of electronic gates in the fence along Congress Avenue.
“It’s been over a year, and they still have not completed the project,” said Moya, a real estate agent. “I can’t even recommend WCI to my clients.”
Hurand said WCI wants to make good.
“We’re working through all that stuff with the homeowners association,” Hurand said. “Builders in general make mistakes. We’re not perfect. Builders have to stand behind their products, and we do.”
But Estis, who also runs the property management company for CitySide, said WCI rarely returns calls or e-mails to respond to complaints.
Such complaints aren’t new for WCI. Its oceanfront condo buildings at Jupiter Yacht Club have suffered from leaks and code violations, said Steve Inglis, head of Bristol Management Services Inc., which manages the Admiral, Mariner and Pointe condos, all at the Jupiter Yacht Club.
While WCI paid the Pointe $2 million to fix problems there, it has fought the Admiral and Mariner owners, Inglis said.
“They have stonewalled us the entire process,” Inglis said Wednesday. “Every step of the way, they are legally maneuvering to stall, stall and stall.”
WCI likewise annoyed homeowners at the Evergrene development in Palm Beach Gardens. Many complained about paper-thin walls and shoddy cabinets.
One Evergrene owner, accountant Jeff Bolton, said he decided to stop battling WCI after spending countless hours hounding the company to do repairs.
“You need to aggressively pursue the company to get them to complete their obligations in the contract,” Bolton said this week. “They will not do it unless you’re jumping up and down.”
By Jeff Ostrowski
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer