Homeowners in Chateau Elan have won a major lawsuit to stop the redevelopment of the resort's Par 3 golf course into residential homes.
The action comes after a year of controversy over plans by the new owners of Chateau Elan, WS CE Resort Owner, a part of Wheelock Street Capital, to convert the golf course into homes.
The issue hit last year when Chateau Elan went before the Braselton Town Council to request a rezoning for the project. But homeowners living in The Manor Homes of Chateau Elan opposed the move, saying they paid a premium price for their lots because of the view of the golf course.
In his ruling of June 8, Senior Judge David Motes ruled in the Superior Court of Barrow County that Chateau Elan proceeded with their rezoning action knowing that nearby homeowners had easement rights to the Par 3 course.
"When the Defendant purchased Chateau Elan it knew the Par 3 Course existed, it knew that the Par 3 Course had been depicted on plats of the property, and it knew that the property was encumbered by existing easements," Motes wrote. "In spite of all of this notice, actual and constructive, Defendant proceeded with its rezoning application and its attempt to eliminate the Par 3 Golf Course and replace it with a residential development. These actions constitute stubbornly litigious conduct which has forced the Plaintiffs to undertake this litigation in order to protect their property rights and homes."
Motes awarded attorney fees to the plaintiffs, Thomas and Connie Holland and Evelyn McCarthy.
Both homeowners paid a lot premium of $15,000 for their property because of its view of the golf course. But Chateau Elan had argued that the golf course was not a special benefit to the homeowners and that they had not paid a premium for their lots.
"These arguments are contrary to the undisputed evidence," the judge wrote. "The evidence shows that Chateau Elan is a planned community and the Par 3 Golf Course is an integral part of the whole. The Par 3 Course was a specific inducement to purchase a lot in The Manor Homes."
Chateau Elan had argued that it is losing money on the Par 3 course and wanted to sell that property to develop townhomes. But the judge said the golf course was a recognized part of the overall Chateau Elan development.
"The area of the Par 3 Course and the restriction on use is sufficiently identified by reference in the subdivision plat, the marketing brochures, the development plan, and by the fact of its existence at the time the Plaintiffs purchased their homes. To hold otherwise would be to permit this Defendant to convert all of the golf courses in Chateau Elan to residential (or some other) use and convert a world-renowned golf course community into just another expensive subdivision."
Despite that, Judge Motes said that his ruling does not require that the golf course always be maintained as it is.
"The Court is not necessarily requiring that the Par 3 Course remain open and operable in perpetuity," he said. "There are provisions in Article XI of the Development Plan for renewal and termination of the Declaration of Covenants by 80% of the votes in the Association as defined in the covenants."