Sage Gardens buyers looking for legal council
Once-interested residents want money back
Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014 06:00 am
It took 12 years for Michelle to save enough money to buy her first condo.
Now the 30-year-old St. Albert woman is worried that both her money and future home are gone for good.
Michelle, who prefers to remain anonymous, is part of a group of buyers who invested into the now defunct Sage Gardens condo development in St. Albert’s north.
The group is now seeking legal council to find out what happened to the development and their money. Most of them invested more than $28,000.
“I was excited when I finally got my first place but then when I found out that the money was probably missing I was outraged,” said Michelle.
“But I was also mad for some of the older people that bought into this place. Because maybe that was all they had.”
Sage Gardens was supposed to be a 214-unit condominium complex with prices ranging from $200,000 to $340,000. The $50-million eco-friendly, state-of-the-art complex was expected to break ground in the city’s north in the spring.
Earlier this year, the developer, Vision Investment Properties, announced that construction was delayed and the buildings would not be completed until 2015.
In July, the company took down its sales centre.
Since then, it has been almost impossible for the buyers to get in touch with Vision or its president, Thomas Napiontek.
Phone numbers were disconnected, employees could not be reached and offices were closed, or moved to another location, they said. The Gazette again attempted to contact Napiontek for this story, but a voicemail message was not returned.
In an interview with the Gazette, David Wong, the architect working on Sage Garden’s initial concept design, and Phyllis Nichyporuk, the last sales person employed at the local sales centre, said they had never been paid.
The only information buyers received from Vision was an email, in which Napiontek and other employees of Vision said the development would not be going ahead as the landowner, Landrex, had “alternative plans for the site,” it said.
The email also said that Vision “was processing the deposits” and would return the money within three to six months.
But Michelle said the email she received provided no such time frame.
“They said they were currently working on a repayment plan but did not supply a date when I would be getting my money back,” she said.
Michelle and some of the other buyers met on Monday to discuss their options.
One woman said she has already gone to the police. But there’s nothing they can do at this time, she said.
“Vision followed all the right steps when applying for a development permit,” she said.
Another woman said she had contacted Progressive Home Warranty, a St. Albert company that provides homeowners and builders with a warranty for new homes.
As of Nov. 1, 2013, the New Home Buyer Protection Act required builders to provide this warranty for all new homes. Otherwise, they cannot build.
The woman said that Vision had advertised Progressive Home Warranty in Sage Garden’s brochure. But the company had never signed up with the warranty firm.
Mike Garritty, with Progressive Home Warranty, confirmed his company had an initial meeting with Vision but they never applied for warranty with them, he said.
Without the warranty, companies can also not apply for a building permit, he said.
When Michelle first signed her contract with Vision in early March, everything about the developer seemed fine, she said.
The sales centre person told her the company had all the funding in place to build the condos. She had also researched Vision before investing her money, she said.
“They had some more projects they were building in Vancouver and it looked like a legitimate thing,” she said. “It did not raise any alarms.”
That changed in June, when a new person working at the sales centre contacted Michelle.
Michelle was told that her files and contract had been sent to Malaysia for security reasons while the previous sales centre employee had left for two weeks.
In July, the sales centre was taken down, she said. She contacted Vision but they never wrote back.
“I thought maybe they are starting construction but that’s when I saw the news with Sydney,” she said.
Sydney Olson, another buyer, had contacted CTV News on Aug. 7. The 23-year-old had invested more than $15,000 as a down payment for a condo at Sage Gardens.
She also was worried about losing her life savings, she said.
Michelle said she hopes the money can still be retrieved. She still wants to own a condo in the future. It will only take a lot longer now, she said.
“It’s been my goal since I was 18. So I am not going to be deterred. I am just really ticked off,” she said.
“Just mad, betrayed, you know, it is violating.”
Other buyers looking to contact the group can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.