Beaufort News

Ruling casts doubt on Hilton Head Plantation gate toll

Hilton Head Plantation property owners behind on their association dues can't be charged a toll to enter the gated community, a Beaufort County judge has ruled.

Judge Marvin Dukes determined the association's policies and bylaws do not give it the authority to charge the toll, which took effect Monday, as a way of collecting long overdue assessments.

"After a review of the aforementioned covenants and restrictions, I find that there is no provision allowing the association to charge a toll on owners ...," Dukes wrote in the Sept. 26 temporary injunction. The ruling bars the association from charging Patrick or Janelle Dodd, who are named in the order, the $10 daily toll or the $50 fee for a guest pass until a final hearing on the matter.

It does not specifically prohibit the toll for other delinquent property owners.

Plantation general manager Peter Kristian said he was unaware of the court order and was still charging the toll Tuesday. It has yielded $20 so far, he said.

Several hours later, after receiving a copy of the order, Kristian said the association could not comment on pending litigation.

Hilton Head Plantation has about 4,200 properties, and annual dues are $1,002 a year. The assessments cover amenities, such as armed security guards, road maintenance and access to sporting and recreation centers inside the gates.

The property owners' association board devised the toll to avoid costly litigation against the delinquent homeowners, according to the community's August newsletter.

While most property owners pay on time, Kristian said, about 40 are behind on dues, and some haven't paid in two years. All told, the community is owed more than $122,000.

Since the toll was announced in August, Kristian said, most delinquent property owners have set up payment plans to clear their debt. Among the "five or six" property owners who haven't, he said, most don't live in the community, so the toll wouldn't affect them.

"This is addressing a handful of people. It's a very, very small number," he said. "However, it's still not fair to all those people who pay the assessments on time ... to put burden on them to carry other folks, especially for two years."

The court case, GMAC Mortgage LLC. v. Patrick Dodd, Janelle Dodd, Hersey Hawkins, Jennifer Hawkins, and Hilton Head Plantation, came before Dukes on Sept. 17.

Attempts Tuesday to contact the lawyers in the case -- Mark Berglind, an attorney with Vaux & Marscher who represented the Dodds, and Robert Davis, an attorney with Rogers Townsend & Thomas who represented GMAC -- were unsuccessful.

Attempts to reach the Dodds also were unsuccessful Tuesday. A phone number listed for the family had been disconnected.

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