"There was nothing in their literature about this," Ellis says, adding that she and other prospective buyers specifically questioned Pulte sales reps about plans for the vacant plot of land adjacent to the development. "I was told this was slated for 'low-density housing,'" Ellis goes on, a note of anger apparent in her voice. She's not alone in her outrage. Five other members of their recently formed ad hoc group assert that they were told the same thing. "That was the deciding factor for me," LeMoine says. "I never would have bought the house if I knew a gravel pit was going to be in my back yard."
Pulte attorney Kyle Hegna contends that the company is eager to address the homeowners' complaints: "We've contacted the residents, and I've agreed to meet with them next week." When asked about the developer's previous promise to alert Regatta buyers about the gravel pit expansion, Hegna says he hasn't read the minutes; pressed further, he pauses before promising to "look at that specific language." He stresses, however, that it is Pulte's policy to "disclose all specific knowledge" they have concerning potential environmental hazards--be they toxic-waste dumps or gravel pits in the vicinity--before closing on purchase agreements with home buyers.
On December 2, the Planning Commission reconvened. At the end of a contentious, six-hour meeting, a conditional-use permit green-lighting the expansion of Pulte's mining operation passed 3-2. But the battle's not over yet, say LeMoine and her neighbors. Apple Valley's City Council has final say over the issuance of the permit, so the group is busy lobbying council members to vote No when the issue comes up, most likely on January 22.
In the meantime, the group is exploring the possibility of suing Pulte Homes for fraud. "A lot of us have put our life savings into our homes--we aren't going to stand by helplessly and watch our property values drop," Ellis says. "At this point, we can't say for certain that what [Pulte] did was illegal. But we do know that what they did was morally and ethically wrong."