The consumer protection division of the Maryland attorney general's office is trying to mediate a dispute between the developer of an Anne Arundel County retirement community and a group of its residents.
About 300 of the 1,100 residents of Heritage Harbour, near South River, have asked the attorney general's office to look into
alleged wrongdoing by the community's developer, U.S. Home Corp.
Among other things, residents claim U.S. Home Corp. sold to other developers land that had been set aside as community common space.
The residents' request follows the release of a 34-page report by a Baltimore attorney hired by the residents to look into their complaints.
"This is a very involved case," said Rebecca G. Bowman, an assistant attorney general. "We're trying to mediate the differences between the company and the tenants."
Bowman said she could not speak specifically about the Heritage Harbour case, but in situations where mediation fails, and there is some evidence of wrongdoing, it is possible the tenants could file suit against the company, or the attorney general's office could file suit on the tenants' behalf.
The Heritage Harbour Community, which opened in 1979, is a retirement community for residents 45 and older with condominiums starting at $120,000, townhouses starting at $130,000, and single-family detached homes starting at $170,000. There is a nine-hole golf course, swimming, tennis and clubhouse facilities for the residents.
After four months of fund-raising, the 300 residents managed to raise about $50,000 to hire an attorney to back up their allegations. Those allegations are:
* That U.S. Home mislead owners regarding the maximum number of units which it can build. The attorney's report states that 1,600 units are the maximum of units that can be built.
James G. Migliore, division president of the mid-Atlantic region for U.S. Home Corp., said the attorney's findings were incorrect.
"That is a misinterpretation on there part," Migliore said. "We never committed to only 1,600 units."
* That U.S. Home and members of the board who are employees of the company have violated their duties by conveying land, nearly 23 acres, owned by Heritage back to U.S. Home.
Migliore said much of the land, about 11.9 acres was "erroneously deeded to the community association. The land was always designated for development, he added.
Another nine acres is to be transferred back to the community association. And the funds from the sale of another 1.9 acres, which was sold to the state, is to be turned over to the association.
* That U.S. Home failed to grant easements to South River and Broad Creek.
Migliore said easements have been granted to. "They may not be where the residents want them, but they are there," he said.
* That U.S. Home failed to act in best interest of members and respond to inquiries by members.
"In spite of the [attorney's] report, there are a lot of happy residents there," Migliore said. "Most of our sales come from referrals by the homeowners. We have legally and morally provided a wonderful community for our residents."