Lawsuit a shock to board members

A resident in Westchase is suing over a $100

"welcome documents package fee" he says he had paid before.


Article Courtesy of The St. Petersburg Times

Published on Sunday, December 11, 2005

WESTCHASE - Board members stared blankly as a bomb dropped - they were being sued, and nobody knew it.

At a Westchase Community Association meeting Thursday night, World of Westchase magazine editor Chris Barrett mentioned, in passing, a small claims lawsuit against the community. It was news to the board.

"I'm a little bit concerned," said board member Mary Griffin, who wondered why Westchase's lawyer Steve Mezer hadn't told anyone about it.

The board didn't know that homeowner Gregory Grant filed a suit in October. They didn't know the case has already gone through a pretrial conference and court-ordered mediation with a lawyer from Bush Ross, P.A., the firm Mezer works for.

"The normal procedure has been that they advise us of what's going on and how the board wants to proceed," board president Daryl Manning said Friday. "In this instance, if they did advise us, none of us were aware."

Mezer didn't return a call Friday afternoon.

Grant, who has lived in Westchase for eight years, moved from one Westchase neighborhood to another - from Glenfield to the Fords - in 2004. Westchase charges a "welcome documents package fee" of $100 to new homeowners.

Grant was not new to Westchase and already had his deed restriction documents.

"My claim is only for $100," Grant said Friday. "I'm not suing for $100 plus my time and interest and all that kind of stuff. I'm just basically saying I don't have to pay this fee. I don't think it's fair."

The board thought otherwise. Manning said it's procedural that everyone who buys a house in Westchase pay the fee. The board turned down Grant's request. That was the last they heard of the case, until now.

Grant said mediation went nowhere, and he's waiting for a trial to start.

Friday, Manning was trying to find out why the association was left out of the loop.

Westchase lawyers are paid by the hour from a legal portion of Westchase's tax-paid operating budget, Manning said.