Lago de Vita group files for bankruptcy
Article Courtesy of Pittsburg Tribune-Review

By Richard Gazarik
Saturday, July 6, 2002 

An association representing homeowners in a Hempfield Township housing development has filed for bankruptcy less than six months after settling a legal dispute with the developer. 

The Communities of Lago de Vita Inc. filed for protection in U.S. District Bankruptcy Court in Pittsburgh late Wednesday, saying it is reorganizing because of debts incurred during years of legal battles with developer Art Nobile. 

Dr. Edward Halusic, president of the association, said the bankruptcy filing was a "good business move." 

"We're a viable organization, and we're reorganizing for the good of the community," Halusic said. "It's what we had to do. I'm not going to comment on our exact situation." 

He declined further comment. 

The filing for a voluntary petition of bankruptcy commonly known as Chapter 11 allows the petitioner to stave off creditors while reorganizing a business and its finances. 

The filing came just two days before Judge Gary Caruso was to hold a hearing on a claim by Greensburg attorney David Robinson that he is owed $208,000 in legal fees for representing homeowners in the past. 

Robinson was the original attorney in a series of lawsuits homeowners filed against Nobile beginning in the mid-1980s. Robinson never has been paid for his work and was replaced last year by the Pittsburgh law firm of Buchanan Ingersoll. 

Caruso said yesterday he postponed Robinson's hearing, set for Friday, after attorneys notified him that the association had filed for bankruptcy. He said he delayed the hearing to give Robinson and his lawyer time to decide whether they will press their legal action against three other homeowners' associations Casa Vita, Lakeridge and Lago de Vita that are not parties to the bankruptcy. 

"That's one of the issues that attorneys need to resolve," Caruso said. 

Neither Robinson nor Nobile would comment on the bankruptcy. 

In January, Nobile and the Communities of Lago de Vita Inc. settled a long-standing legal fight by agreeing to pay Nobile $200,000 to settle 20 lawsuits filed since 1986. The settlement also called for Nobile to give up the rights to maintain the development's streets. 

In return, the association would get access to $180,000 in road maintenance fees that have been held in escrow until the lawsuits were settled. 

The association paid Nobile $40,000 of the settlement and was supposed to begin paying him $1,000 a month for the next 160 months, beginning last Feb. 15. The association also owes Buchanan Ingersoll for its legal representation. 

Residents learned of the bankruptcy the night before it happened. 

Homeowners met at the West Point Volunteer Fire Department hall Tuesday night to listen to association attorneys and officers present their case for bankruptcy. The petition was filed late the next day in Pittsburgh. 

For the past 15 years, Nobile and some of the homeowners have been waging a legal battle for control of the development. Nobile charged homeowners a road maintenance fee that required him to maintain the roads into the private community. 

Nobile had been paid more than $1 million in fees at the development, which includes a lake, and a golf course that is now closed. 

Homeowners had complained that the roads were supposed to be private, as was the golf course. But the course was opened to the public and homeowners complained in court about having to dodge errant golf shots and of damage to their homes and vehicles caused by golfers. 

The golf course was allowed to remain open as long as Nobile agreed to build an access road so golfers would not have to drive over private roads to get to the clubhouse.