HERITAGE HARBOUR -- One after another, residents of Heritage Harbour walked to a podium Thursday during the South Community Development District meeting to express their concern over a $3.84 million lawsuit filed against the CDD by Stoneybrook Investors LLC, which essentially owns the golf course in the development.
The suit contends Stoneybrook was taxed unfairly and questions the district’s authority to levy assessments.
If the developer wins, it could cost each homeowner thousands of dollars. Residents at the meeting said they wanted the matter settled quickly.
“If we go further, we’ll negatively impact the community,” one said.
A court hearing is scheduled March 15. The CDD attorney will ask for a dismissal based on the grounds of insufficient allegations of fact and no allegations showing the CDD was aware to the existence or non-existence of a constitutional right.
In November, Stoneybrook Investors LLC filed a lawsuit against the CDD in county circuit civil court.
The lawsuit asserts the district exceeded its authority to bond infrastructure and improvements by the imposition of a special assessment in 2002 and 2003, but it was later determined that the 2003 bonds did not apply to Stoneybrook.
The lawsuit claims Stoneybrook was taxed for more than $50,000 in debt services per year since passage of the bonds, including in 2011.
In May, the CDD proposed a budget that included an assessment for the golf course and clubhouse exceeding $100,000. Stoneybrook Investors objected, questioning the CDD’s authority and methodology.
Stoneybrook alleged the CDD was benefiting from the golf course’s existence, operation, design and maintenance in an amount of $40,000 per month over the past eight years, for an annual amount of $480,000 and sum of $3.84 million.
Residents said they are worried that a pending lawsuit could scare away potential home buyers. If the CDD loses, residents could pay $3,200 each, said CDD chairman William Lee Bettes. “I go to bed sick every night over this lawsuit,” Bettes told the room.
This is not the only lawsuit the CDD is dealing with. The other case against the CDD is a class-action suit for $50,000 or less. In December, Lighthouse Cove at Heritage Harbour Inc. and Cecil Ramsey filed against the CDD, county property appraiser Charles Hackney and county tax collector Ken Burton.
Bettes said he was approached by residents asking if they should boycott the golf course. But Bettes’ opinion was clear.
“We’ll resolve this through the court system,” he said.
And that’s what residents don’t want.
One resident said he’d rather move out of the CDD than pay legal fees for a “political game.”
Both cases will go before a judge for a motion-to-dismiss hearing later this month. On March 7, there will be a hearing to dismiss the complaint by Lighthouse Cove against the CDD and the county tax collector.
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Tweet: @_1NickWilliams