Bluffton Developer Sued Over Flooded Lots


Lawsuit on Hampton Hall lots isn’t moving for now but the dirt is

April 28, 2008

By LIZ MITCHELL – The Island Packet

About nine months after three Hampton Hall lot owners filed a suit claiming that lots they’d bought couldn’t be built on, the case is still on hold.

In the meantime, the only thing that’s moved is tons of dirt.

On a cul-de-sac off Normandy Avenue, several lots sit as much as 4 feet below the elevation of the road. Last week, truckloads of fill dirt were brought in to make three of the lots level with the road. The lots being filled are owned by Hampton Hall LLC, the developer.

Right next door are two lots in a wooded area that overlooks a lagoon. One is owned by Jerry and Elizabeth Iacavone.

The other is owned by Chaz Bartucz. The Iacavones and Bartucz said they bought their lots for about $200,000 each before the road and lagoon were there.

After the road was put in, their lots and the others flooded when the lagoon overflowed. Water was trapped between the lagoon and the road’s bank. A letter from the past president of Hampton Hall Property Owners stated that the engineering company, Thomas & Hutton, constructed the lagoon nearly 2 feet lower than planned, causing water to drain into adjacent lots.

In their lawsuit, the Iacavones and Bartucz claim their lots are unfit for building because they need to be brought up to the level of the road. They also claim the developer knew they would need to be filled and didn’t disclose that before selling them the land. The suit also names Hampton Hall’s realty and engineering companies.

Hampton Hall LLC’s lawyer, Douglas Novak of Vaux and Marscher, could not be reached for comment. He filed a motion to dismiss the case in September. A judge has yet to rule on that motion.

Susan Brach, the lawyer representing the landowners, said the case has been delayed because of a backlog in court.

Bluffton issued permits to Hampton Hall before the town’s new stormwater ordinance was on the books, so the developer is not required to fill in lots whose elevation is below the road. Jeff McNesby, Bluffton’s environmental protection director, said the new ordinance requires lots to be a foot above the road to ensure houses don’t flood and stormwater flows correctly.

The current president of Hampton Hall Property Owners, Chris Gaffney, called The Island Packet to say he disagreed with the lot owners who say their property is unsuitable for building without fill dirt.

Jerry Iacavone said that to build on his property, he would need up to 200 truckloads of dirt, which would cost about $30,000. The developer offered to do the job, but that would mean clearing out all the trees, brush and vegetation on his lot, surroundings Iacavone doesn’t want to lose. The developer also offered to let him trade lots.

But Iacavone said he doesn’t want to swap.

“Originally, all we asked was for them to buy the property back,” Iacavone said. “We were willing to walk away. … Now we want full damages.”

The lot owners continue to pay property owners’ dues and taxes for their lots.

“Our properties are worthless right now,” Bartucz said. “Even if I wanted to sell it, I can’t even do that.”


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