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Litchfield Plantation: Developer seeks damages from property owners in suit

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The developer of Litchfield Plantation says a suit brought by property owners has decreased property values and has asked the state Circuit Court to dissolve the homeowners association board and award the company damages, according to documents filed this week.

“Property values have decreased and the association has incurred unnecessary expenses,” according to a counterclaim filed by Litchfield Plantation Co.

Five property owners brought suit in March asking the court to affirm they are the properly-elected board of the homeowners association and ruling that the developer, Litchfield Plantation Co., no longer has control over the association because it failed to fund its required share of maintenance costs for the common elements.

The case was delayed because ownership of the company changed. Scott Trotter, who organized a buyout of the company, was replaced by John Miller, who bought the undeveloped property within Litchfield Plantation. Miller complained his attorney couldn’t get documents from Trotter.

Trotter was voted out as president of the homeowners association in February, and later accused of grand larceny in a complaint filed by the property owners who were voted in as the new board. Those owners – Joseph E. Johnston, Thomas Eckard, Carol E. Kirby, Robert F. McMahan and Thomas M. Phillips – are also the plaintiffs in the civil suit.

Trotter, who is also a party to the civil suit, claims the new board was improperly elected, a position that Litchfield Plantation Co. supports in this week’s filings.

The company says that despite Trotter’s assertions that it couldn’t pay its share of the maintenance costs, “the association did not run out of funds and there was no deficit for the year 2010.”

As a result, the covenant that gives the developer one more vote than all the other property owners combined – and thereby control of the association – is still in effect, according to the filing.

Litchfield Plantation Co. asks for an injunction dissolving the current board and forcing it to turn over records and funds. If the court finds the board properly elected, it asks the court to find the members breached their duties, which caused higher assessments.

The counterclaim also says Litchfield Plantation Co. was trying to sell its interests to US Development LLC. “The plaintiffs intentionally interfered with the defendant’s ability to enter into a contract to sell its property,” the company says.

US Development is no longer interested in the deal and Litchfield Plantation Co. wants actual and punitive damages from the plaintiffs.

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