Claiming Fraud, Street Couple Sues Over Disputed Home Site

December 22, 1991|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,SUN STAFF

A Street couple has sued a developer and an engineering firm for $3 million, contending that they were misled about restrictions on property they bought for a home.

The couple contends in the suit that the companies intentionally prepared lot plats showing that their homesite was bordered by a natural resources district, a designation given to land considered environmentally sensitive.

The couple, Robert and Anita Funk, say the county later informed them that the lot was actually within the district and that they would have to make site improvements to meet county specifications for building in natural resources districts.

Later, they learned from a federal agency that the lot was neither in nor bordered by a natural resources district.

The suit, filed in Harford Circuit Court on Dec. 12, names Howes Construction Co. of Shrewsbury in York County, Pa., and Windward Associates Inc. of Aberdeen as defendants. Howes has changed its name to Superior Building Systems Inc.

In addition to the money damages, the Funks are asking the court to order Howes and Windward to prepare a new plat with the correct information about the lot. A trial date has not been scheduled.

Allen R. Philippe, president of Windward, and Edwin Howes, a Fallston resident and president of the development company, declined to comment, saying they have notseen the lawsuit yet.

"We haven't heard there were any rumblings that there was a problem or an issue," Philippe said. "It sort of throws us."

Because of the incorrect plat, the lot's value has dropped and Funks might have problems selling it, the suit contends.

TheFunks say in the suit that they bought the lot because of its proximity to the district. They claim that Windward and Howes "conspired" to prepare an incorrect plat to defraud buyers.

"The defendants failed to exercise that degree of care that reasonably competent surveyors, engineers and developers would use in preparing plats," the suit says.

The Funks bought the three-acre lot off Federal Hill Road for $62,500 in June 1989 to build a house, according to the suit.

Before buying the lot, the Funks reviewed plats prepared by Windward Associates for Howes showing that the site was bordered by a natural resources district, the suit says.

But as construction on the home was proceeding, the Funks received "numerous" citations, violation notices and stop-work orders from the county for disturbing the district, the suit says.

The county, using the plats prepared by Windward and Howes, required the Funks to "move dirt, put up silt fences, stopconstruction, obtain variances, employ additional professionals and subcontractors (and) pay additional mortgage payments, all at great additional expense."

After the extra work was done, the Funks learned from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that the property was not in the natural resources district, the suit says.

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