Ridgeway residents watching lawsuit that could end with changes to property owners association


Article Courtesy of The TCPalm

By Sarah Prohaska

Published November 20, 2009

HOBE SOUND — What started as a dispute about an age restriction at a southern Martin County mobile home community has landed in court.

A resident is alleging the property owner’s association has been acting without proper authority — collecting fees and enforcing restrictions — for almost 20 years.

Ridgeway Property Owners Association Inc. filed suit against resident Marva Evans in October, asking a judge to permanently bar Evans’ daughter from living in the community because her daughter does not meet the community’s 55-plus age restriction. But Evans fired back earlier this month, filing court documents alleging the association has been acting improperly for years.

Her supporters say the results of this case could have a huge affect on all residents in this more than 900-home community.

According to court documents, Evans alleges research of documents dating back to the late 1980s reveals deed restrictions that govern important aspects of the community, including the age restriction, are not valid.

Her attorney contends there must be an approval vote of 100 percent of lot owners to execute deed restrictions governing an age limit and any attempt to make the property owner’s association mandatory.

According to Evans’ suit, the association in the late 1980s claimed it had a two-thirds vote, not 100 percent, of the lot owners to make the restrictions.

Ridgeway’s attorney, Maxine Noel, maintains the association has acted within its authority, but declined to comment further on the case.

“We believe her claims are without merit,” Noel said.

The association’s president could not be reached for comment. In its suit against Evans, the association points out that the Florida Commission on Human Relations denied a claim that the association discriminated against Evans because of her sex.

Evans’ suit claims at least three attorneys have advised the association over the years that it is voluntary and lacks the power to mandate membership in the association.

Boca Raton attorney Jean Winters, who represents Evans and two other Ridgeway residents, declined to comment on the case outside of what is in court documents.

Evans wants a judge to declare the deed restrictions, which include the age issue, as void and declare the property owner association is voluntary without mandatory assessments or membership dues.

Several residents who believe they should not have to pay fees to the association are watching this case closely, said resident Richard Davis, who is not named in the lawsuits.

“We’ve done everything to get them to realize they have no authority over us,” Davis said of the association.