The Town of Hilton Head Island is being sued for allegedly misusing a piece of land it purchased over 15 years ago.
The Sea Cabin Racquet Club II Horizontal Property Regime Council of Co-owners is claiming the town is violating contract terms that passed on to them from the previous owner. The town bought the land in 2002.
Previous owner Dennis Van Der Meer was responsible for upkeep on the property and pledged to use the land for tennis courts as part of his deal when he bought the roughly 1.4 acre lot from Sea Cabin Corporation in 1983.
“The property shall at all times be maintained as a tennis facility and will be operated and maintained in a professional and quality manner,” said a contract signed by Van Der Meer at the time of purchase and cited in the suit.
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According to that contract, the facility, which is next to the Cordillo Courts Condominiums was to have four courts kept in good playing condition. The condominiums are individually owned by residents but overseen by the property regime.
For several years after the purchase by the city, the property was allowed to fall into disrepair, says Property Regime attorney Thomas Taylor.
In the last three or four years, Taylor said, the town has breached that contract by using the land for purposes outside of its prescribed use.
Hilton Head is planning a meeting on Monday, March 5 to discuss further developing the property. That potential additional development prompted the lawsuit, which was filed in the Beaufort County Court of Common Pleas on Wednesday, Feb. 28.
The suit says that the lot has been used by private vendors to sell food with encouragement from the city; that the town has conducted health screening on the property; and that it has allowed the lot to be frequented by unattended children, who have vandalized it.
“Our clients have attempted to raise these issues with the town repeatedly, and it has always fallen on deaf ears,” said Taylor.
When the town holds its meeting Monday night, the president of the property regime will be there along with several board members, Taylor said. Taylor will also be there.
Hilton Head’s assistant town manager Greg DeLoach said that the town’s attorney had received notice that a suit had been filed, but that the town has yet to be served with the summons and complaint.
“Once the town is served, typically, our town attorney handles any media inquiries and, typically, doesn’t volunteer comments,” said DeLoach. “The next step, once we are served, is to provide council with the complaint and advise them of the matter during an executive session.”
The suit seeks a judgment against Hilton Head for creating a nuisance and an injunction against the town prohibiting use or redevelopment of the property outside its intended use as tennis courts. It also seeks damages against the town, including punitive damages and attorney’s fees.