May 10, 2017

Contractor license suspended, Jay Pelletz still leaving customers in lurch

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Patrick Sargent/For Worcester Sun

Mutual Builders' former headquarters at 660 Park Ave.

Melissa and Brian Barrows moved in 2015 into a secluded subdivision among the evergreens near the Quinebaug River in Southbridge called Hunter’s Ridge.

The home was built in 2006 on a short cul-de-sac called Quail Run, just off of Red Fox Blvd. and before Whitetail Circle.

Sounds good, so far. Idyllic even.

Except the home was built by Jamaheja, Inc., a contracting company owned by troubled Worcester real estate agent and developer Jay Pelletz, who has left accusations of unfinished work, broken promises and tens of thousands of dollars in money owed in his wake, according to several unsatisfied customers over the years.

However, unlike many of Pelletz’s former clients, the Barrows haven’t had any problems with their home.

“Knock on wood, right now we have not had any issues with our house that stem back to the building process of it,” Melissa told the Sun recently.

Instead, like the other residents of Quail Run, town leaders in Southbridge and one local bank, the Barrows’ problems on the homefront stem from Pelletz’s refusal to meet his obligations to maintain the private roads of the subdivision.

Unpaved, unfinished and unplowed streets. No street lights.

“In the winter, it was pitch black up here and the roads are awful. When the kids were getting off the school bus at the bottom of the road, the sidewalks weren’t cleared for them to walk on, and it was still dark out depending on when they were getting on or off the bus,” Barrows said.

“He did it for years where he kept maintaining the roads, but eventually [Pelletz] said he didn’t have any more money,” said Ron San Angelo, Southbridge town manager. “If he were making money, he wouldn’t be working in a real estate office.”

Pelletz is listed as a Realtor for Quinsigamond Realty on Lake Avenue in Worcester.

Negotiations between the town, United Bank and Pelletz are ongoing, according to San Angelo.

“[Pelletz] has been working with the town and has been willing to work with us,” the town manager said in a recent phone interview. “The complications right now are in discussions between United Bank, the developer and the town. We are still in negotiations, but I’m not comfortable with it yet. Hopefully I can resolve it soon, so I can help the residents.”

San Angelo said that Pelletz is willing to give the land to the town in lieu of unpaid taxes Pelletz owes on plots of undeveloped land behind the subdivisions.

Pelletz’s Jamaheja Corp., a subsidiary of Mutual Builders, owes $278,670 in taxes as of late April, according to the town treasurer.

“It’s an unfair situation and the residents are going to need this fixed as soon as possible,” San Angelo added. He would not comment further on the ongoing negotiations.

Multiple attempts to reach Pelletz over the course of several weeks went unreturned.

“If nothing happens pretty soon, we are going to form an organization and sue everyone,” David Caron, a resident at Quail Run since 2005, said in a phone interview. “We don’t want to go through another winter like this again.”

According to the town and several residents of Quail Run, 2016 was the first year Pelletz didn’t maintain the roads, plow or pay National Grid to make sure the streetlights were working.

On Dec. 1, as was reported by multiple regional news outlets, Pelletz sent a letter to the town stating he would no longer be plowing the two subdivisions.

In the letter, Pelletz writes: “…Jamaheja, the owner of the Hunters Ridge Subdivision in Southbridge is no longer operating as a company.”

“This is the first time a formal letter has been sent out by [Pelletz] to the town,” Barrows said. “He’s basically saying he’s washed his hands of us, and we’re the ones that are going to have pay for his mess and come up with a solution on our own.”

Barrows and others, though, are not willing to let town officials off the hook.

“The roads are not finished, they’re in terrible shape. And the town wants nothing to do with this,” said Lynn Durocher, of 43 Quail Run, who purchased one of the first homes at Hunter’s Ridge in 2005 after moving from Nashville, Tennessee.

“And Jay [Pelletz] has been able to walk away from all of this without any kind of repercussions from it and we are left to have to deal with it.”

Pelletz walking away and leaving homeowners with a problem on their hands is nothing new.

As the principal of Mutual Builders — the company headquartered at 660 Park Ave. that his father, Mel Pelletz, started in 1975; and which was the initial contractor of record at Hunter’s Ridge — Jay Pelletz accumulated a string of jilted customers who have waited months and years for returned deposits and work to be finished. Many still wait.

Complete coverage of Jay Pelletz and Mutual Builders:

Indeed, Jeanty Pierre Paul of Dudley has been wrangling with Pelletz over nearly $80,000 in unfinished work at his home since 2013.

As a result, Pelletz’s contracting license had been suspended for six months, until Nov. 6, 2016, by the state Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation [OCABR] following an April 2016 complaint hearing brought on behalf of Pierre Paul. Pelletz was also fined $4,250.

OCABR spokesman Christopher Goetcheus told the Sun that Pelletz never paid the assessed fine and didn’t show for a revocation hearing on Dec. 28, 2016, which resulted in Pelletz’s home improvement contractor registration being revoked indefinitely.

(Jay Pelletz maintains an active construction supervisor license.)

It was Mel Pelletz, as the agent for Mutual Builders, who in December 2001 won Planning Board approval in Southbridge for the proposed subdivision. After the first homes were finished in 2005, Mel Pelletz signed a three-year subdivision extension waiver with the town, and one-year extensions from 2008 to 2011.

“Back in 2012, [Jay Pelletz] ran out of money, stopped building houses [at Hunter’s Ridge], and has not done anything since then. So the town has let this drag on for five years,” Barrows said. “The road is only deteriorating and getting worse, and he has no intentions of continuing with the project.”

According to San Angelo, United Bank holds the mortgage owned by Pelletz on the Hunters Ridge property and is unwilling to release the mortgage to the town.

According to documents from the town of Southbridge, in 2004, Mel Pelletz, the town and United Bank invested $180,000 in a tripartite agreement — which was set aside in order to maintain the subdivision roads in case the developer ran out of money to finish the development.

San Angelo said the town, United Bank and Jay Pelletz would all have to come to an agreement regarding the mortgage on the land, and the residents of Hunter’s Ridge would have to pay into a betterment — roughly $240,000 ($420,000 minus the $180,000 already set aside) paid over 20 years — in order for the roads to be fixed and the streetlights turned back on.

Barrows said the town claims it is in the process of trying to take over the land through the bank with a tax lien and eventually the 49 homeowners of Hunter’s Ridge would have to pay into the betterment to get the roads paved. Only then would the town accept them as public roadways.

“The town manager keeps telling us his hands are tied, and that the town is still waiting on the bank,” Barrows said. “Pretty much everyone involved is pretty useless.”

“This is not our fault at all,” Durocher said. “The town let [Jay Pelletz] get away with this. They kept giving him extension after extension and here we are 11 years later. It’s really not surprising.”

Caron said the residents of Hunter’s Ridge will hold a meeting soon to review the situation and decide their next move.

“I told the town manager the other day that I want this thing taken care of before next winter,” Caron added. “We shouldn’t have to go another year dealing with this. We have to this area straightened out.”

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