A Hilton Head Plantation resident is challenging the gated community's policy of charging owners a gate fee for unpaid dues.
Darryl Bailey, who owes the property owners association $4,300, said the $10 charge he must pay each time he enters the gate is unfair and wants to fight it in court.
"I absolutely owe the money, but I find it hard to believe you can own a deeded piece of property in your name and not get to it," Bailey said.
General manager Peter Kristian stands by the fee, which residents with delinquent dues pay each time they drive through the gate.
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He said it encourages debtors to pay and promotes fairness for all. "Those who don't pay are a burden to every other resident who is carrying them."
Each homeowner pays $1,060 in annual assessments for security, landscaping and amenities. The gate fee isn't charged unless at least two years of assessments -- which comes to about $2,000 -- are past due.
The toll seems to work, Kristian said.
It's prompted many property owners to arrange payment plans. Since Hilton Head Plantation started charging in 2012, the number of homeowners with outstanding fees has dropped from 26 to five or six, Kristian said.
"It's certainly brought our delinquent owners down to a manageable level," he said.
The fee has been challenged in court.
Residents Patrick and Janelle Dodd sued the homeowners association in an attempt to end the toll.
During litigation, 14th Circuit Master-in-Equity Marvin Dukes issued a temporary injunction that stopped the community from issuing the fee. He wrote that the association's policies and bylaws do not give it authority to charge the toll as a way of collecting long-overdue assessments.
But Dukes' ruling applied only to fees charged to the Dodds. The homeowners association settled with the couple in October 2012.
Bailey said no one should pay the toll.
He inherited his house near the plantation's Dolphin Head golf course from a friend who died, and he was unaware until later that money was still owed on the house, which is for sale and had been tied up in legal proceedings. He said he plans to pay the homeowners dues after the house is sold.
After he was told he would be charged a gate fee earlier this month, Bailey started asking neighbors who lived in the community to call in passes for him. Two of them have been fined $100 for doing so, he said.
Kristian said the majority of the delinquent fees piled up after Bailey took control of the property.
He said the residents were fined because they "circumvented and abused the guest-pass system."
"When you call in a guest pass, that pass is only good to go to and from the property owner's home," he said. "The only place you can legally go is the property owner's home. Anywhere else, and you'd need to be accompanied by your host."
Bailey said the fines are meant to intimidate.
He said he has the money to pay the delinquent fees, but will "go through the woods before I cooperate with these tactics."
"It's not just about me but about the people who don't have it and will have to sit outside because they can't pay it."
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- Hilton Head Plantation gate toll still in effect , Dec. 10, 2012
- Hilton Head Plantation debtors to be charged gate toll , Sept. 24, 2012