A state appeals court ruled yesterday that deed restrictions are binding on condominium owners and that an Ocean City lawyer who flouted deed restrictions on his seaside shops must pay a $62,999 fine.
The Court of Special Appeals ruled that attorney John J. Green Jr. is bound by restrictions included in his deed when he purchased six condominiums in 1994 for a convenience store, video arcade, restaurant and other shops on the first floor of the 400-unit Sea Watch condominium complex on the 11500 section of Coastal Highway.
The Sea Watch Condominium Council, made up mostly of residential unit owners, sued Green in 1995 after he ignored restrictions that prohibited his customers from using the residential lobby, restricted their access to the shops' front entrance and required his stores to close at 11 p.m.
Lee H. Ogburn, the lawyer for the Sea Watch Condominium Council, said residents of the 20-story complex became angry in the summer of 1995 when Green kept the video arcade and convenience store open all night.
"He just openly [defied] the restrictions," Ogburn said.
Worcester County Circuit Court Judge Theodore Eschenburg ordered Green to pay $62,999 in court costs and attorneys fees and to refrain from using the name "Sea Watch Stores" because it gave the impression the shops were affiliated with the residential complex.
Green appealed, arguing that he should be bound only by the condominium's by-laws and not by the deed restrictions because condominiums are not real property, which traditionally has been defined as land and what is affixed to the land.
But the appeals court said in a published decision that condominiums are real property and that deed restrictions may be imposed on anyone who buys them.
"A condominium is no less a subdivision in real property terms than a subdivision of physical ground," Judge Dale R. Cathell wrote in a 60-page ruling.
Green could not be reached yesterday.
Pub Date: 4/02/97