Center district signs off on suit

Article Courtesy of The Daily Commercial
By Benjamin Roode
Published December 22, 2007


THE VILLAGES - Village Center Community Development District board members gave their go-ahead to a proposed settlement for a lawsuit against the district, The Villages and developer Gary Morse Friday.

Morse, The Villages and the plaintiffs in the suit, five Villages residents who sued on behalf of some 41,000 Villagers, all have signed off on the settlement, which would pay almost $40 million into the Village Center amenities fund over the next 13 years to make up for debts incurred during the sale of recreation facilities in The Villages to the district. The settlement would also create an Amenities Authority Committee that would wield greater control over amenities dollars.

On Dec. 11, five Villages residents sued The Villages, Village Center Community Development District and developer Gary Morse himself on behalf of more than 41,000 other residents, claiming the sale between 1996 and 2005 of the development's recreation facilities to VCCDD was a breach of contract.

The Villages agreed to provide the recreational and other amenities described in each homeowners Declaration of Restrictions, a set of rules to which homeowners in The Villages must adhere, according to the suit. When The Villages sold the recreational and other amenities to VCCDD, debt accrued and some amenities were cut, specifically. The reduction and failure to keep updated of amenities constituted a breach of contract, the suit alleges.

The settlement agreement is the product of almost a year of negotiations, said attorney for the residents Carol Anderson. The settlement represents a fair shake for both sides, she said.

"We think that we accomplished our goal: to get the developer to make substantial contributions to the amenities budget in order to continue services at a level we wanted," she said.

Anderson would not elaborate as the case was still pending, she said.

This is a way for Morse and The Villages to continue providing the amenities services promised and possible future upgrades, legal counsel said.

"Our clients believe it's a fair settlement; obviously, we are recommending they go forward with it," said attorney for The Villages and Morse Stephen Johnson.

"I think it resolves it fairly," he said.

The parties and the settlement agreement must go before Florida 5th circuit judge Lawrence J. Semento several times before it can be finalized.