Oconee County is asking the Superior Court to dismiss the three suits filed against it challenging the county’s right to refund unused sewage capacity fees, stating that the decision to issue the refunds was in full compliance with state laws and the county’s zoning and related ordinances.
The county also claims that the actions of the commissioners in voting to refund sewage capacity fees paid developers of two large, dormant subdivisions “were a proper and legal exercise of discretion as government officials and do not breach any rights” of the property owners.
Buford attorney Thomas Mitchell on April 4 filed in Oconee County Superior Court the county’s answers to the suits by the owners of Westland and Parkside, large master planned residential developments that had purchased but not used sewage capacity from the county.
Suits Filed In March
The owners of the long-dormant Westland and Parkside subdivisions filed suit early last month, seeking to block the Jan. 31 decision by the Board of Commissioners to refund sewer capacity fees for the master plan developments.
In three separate lawsuits, the owners contend, among other things, that the Board of Commissioners violated state zoning laws when it voted to refund sewer capacity fees paid by the developers.
The effect of that Jan. 31 decision was to render the master plan development zoning held by Westland and Parkside meaningless, since the projects depend on sewer capacity, the suits argue.
The suits contend that the county took its action without proper hearings on what amounted to a zoning decision.
Two of the suits were on behalf of two separate owners of the Westland property. The third was on behalf of the owner of Parkside.
Parkside Amended Suit
Parkside Development Property LLC on April 10 amended the complaint it filed on March 2.
In the amended complaint, Parkside asks the court to award Parkside $16 million in damages “based on the County's unjust enrichment.”
The amended suit also seeks interest on the $16 million as well as costs and expenses, including attorneys' fees.
It also asks the court to award damages “in an amount to be proven at trial resulting from the county’s breach of the Letter of Agreement” on the capacity fees.
In the original suit, Parkside only asked for costs, expenses, and attorney’s fees.
The suits filed by the owners of Westland did not ask for specific monetary awards.
Motion On Judges
The suit by REO Funding Solutions, one of the Westland owners, has been assigned to Superior Court Judge Eric Wayne Norris.
The suit filed by Westland-TLG, the second Westland owners, was assigned to Superior Court Judge H. Patrick Haggard.
The Parkside Development Properties suit was assigned to Judge Lawton Stephens.
On March 16 the county filed a motion with Judge Norris asking that the RFO Funding Solutions suit be transferred to Judge Haggard. Judge Norris granted the motion that same day.
The county contended that the “Subject matter in the cases is substantially the same” and “many factual issues will be substantially the same.”
The county filed a similar motion on March 22 with Judge Stephens, and he granted that motion on March 29, transferring the Parkside case to Judge Haggard.
Westland And Parkside
The county approved Westland, a 443-acre master plan development on U.S. 78 near the Apalachee River, in 2003.
The project was to have 430 residential lots as well as acreage for commercial development and a condominium office park.
The Oconee County Board of Commissioners approved the rezone for Parkside in 2004.
The development wraps around Northwest Woods, with entrances on Mars Hill Road and Hog Mountain Road. The Hog Mountain Road part of the project abuts Oconee Veterans Park.
The 469-acre master plan development includes 810 residential lots as well as commercial components.