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Litchfield Plantation: Lawsuit over control of HOA heads toward dismissal

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The developer of Litchfield Plantation and property owners last week withdrew motions that would have either ended or extended a 5-year-old suit over control of the homeowners association. Filings from both sides say they are preparing a consent order to dismiss the case.

The second phase of a case that has already reached the state Court of Appeals is due for a second trial in Circuit Court in October, but the president of the Litchfield Plantation Co. says he hopes the case will be settled by then.

“There’s common ground there,” said John Miller. “It’s a complicated situation.”

Property owners brought suit in 2001 shortly after Miller bought the company and its assets from the original owner, Louise Parsons. The suit challenged the development company’s control of the homeowners association through covenants that give the company a majority vote as long as it continues to sell undeveloped property and pays its share of the association’s cost.

A Circuit Court judge upheld the development company’s voting rights after it made a payment of past-due fees to the association. The Appeals Court confirmed that decision. Homeowners say there is still about $1 million in promissory notes due to the association from the development company and without control of the association those can’t be collected.

But Miller said he has now turned over control of the association. “I have elected not to vote,” he said. “I’ve taken a step back. I hope they can run with it.”

Although there is money owed to the association, he said that can be offset by turning some of the common elements still held by the development company to the association.

There are about 100 lots that can be developed in the portion of Litchfield Plantation that is covered by the association. Miller also owns 37 acres near the marina that are outside the association. There could be over 200 homesites on that parcel, but Miller said nothing will be done there until the other lots are developed.

Accord with the homeowners association won’t end legal issues surrounding Litchfield Plantation. Parsons last week filed suit against Miller seeking to collect $700,000 she says is due from the 2011 sale of the company. She is seeking payment of the principal and interest.

“I haven’t seen it, but I’m not surprised,” Miller said this week.

After he bought the Litchfield Plantation Co., Miller said he also bought up debt owed by Parsons to other investors. “I’ve restructured the debt,” he said. “I own the debt where she owes me money.”

While he plans to bring suit to collect that, “at the end of the day, Louise will get something out of it,” Miller said.

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