Judge renders order in SeaScape hearing

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By Laura Lewis, Reporter

A judge has ordered dismissal of SeaScape property owners’ lawsuit against non-POA board members but denied a request by board members to dismiss the suit against them.

The decision by Senior Resident Superior Court Judge W. David Lee of Union County came last week following a two-day hearing April 28 and 29 at the Brunswick County Courthouse.

It consists of four orders handed down by Lee in connection with the legal dispute between 360 property owners in the upscale community near Holden Beach as plaintiffs and developer Mark Saunders, the SeaScape POA and SeaScape executive board members as defendants.

The plaintiffs or property owners, calling themselves Restore SeaScape, had filed a number of motions on the group’s behalf in Brunswick Superior Court.

Lee’s order:

•Denies Restore SeaScape’s motion to dismiss an amended complaint by the POA in an effort by the plaintiffs to prevent the POA from becoming a party plaintiff.

•Grants a request by non-board defendants — Saunders and the SeaScape POA — to dismiss Restore SeaScape’s lawsuit.

•Denies a request by POA board members to dismiss the plaintiffs’ lawsuit.

•Denies plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction that sought to suspend the rights of Saunders to appoint or remove POA executive board members during the lawsuit and require a special election to replace the existing board.

“Unfortunately for the SeaScape community, the defendants in this case were generally successful,” Dan Bartell of the Restore SeaScape Committee wrote in an email last week.

In essence, Lee dismissed Restore SeaScape’s derivative claims against all third parties but preserved its claims against specific board members, Bartell said.

“We disagree with and are disappointed by the rulings,” Bartell said, adding the orders don’t articulate specifically why the ruling was reached.

Bartell said the committee, along with its attorneys, will consider the rulings more fully over the next week.

“We have some options at this point,” he said, including the possibility of an “interlocutory appeal” — a ruling by a trial court that is made before all claims are resolved as to all parties.

Saunders and his LLCs, the SeaScape POA executive board, Cape Fear Engineering and Brunswick County have also filed motions during ongoing litigation.

According to legal documents filed at the Brunswick County Courthouse, in 2012 the plaintiffs filed a derivative action against the POA “after it was clear the POA was unwilling to pursue legal action against the parties responsible for the defective construction at the community known as SeaScape at Holden Plantation and instead sought to pass millions of dollars in repair costs on to the SeaScape Community residents through a special assessment.”

The property owners maintain after they filed their lawsuit, the POA attempted to intervene, which was initially denied. The POA appealed the decision, and the Court of Appeals allowed the POA to intervene “but expressly declined to determine what the POA’s role in the litigation would be, reserving this for the trial court to determine on remand.”

The action arose “as a result of significant construction defects in the common areas of the SeaScape at Holden Plantation development, as well as collusion of both the Brunswick County Inspections Department and the Executive Board of the SeaScape at Holden Plantation Property Owners Association, Inc. to enable the SeaScape developer, Mark Saunders, SeaScape at Holden Plantation, Inc., and their related entities, to perpetrate shoddy construction and, later, evade responsibility for it,” reads the document.

The lawsuit also cites substandard construction of SeaScape’s marina and ponds, claiming they are in need of extensive repairs estimated to cost millions of dollars.


Laura Lewis is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.