Green Spring Valley residents are suing homeowners association for $2 million Winners of tree dispute allege officials conspired in favor of their neighbor

January 16, 1998|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

The Green Spring Valley homeowners who won a court order to cut down their neighbor's trees that blocked a view are suing their community association board of directors for more than $2 million, alleging conspiracy and fraud for failing to enforce a covenant that banned the trees.

Dr. Onkar and Shakuntala Singh filed the suit in Baltimore County Circuit Court a year ago, but never told their neighbors and waited to serve them with court papers in the past two weeks.

The suit names 12 members of the board of directors and the Homeowners of Greenspring Ltd.

This week, Mrs. Singh said she and her husband waited a year to serve notice of the suit because, "We don't like to sue people."

But she said the community association "kept getting involved and working against us" in the tree dispute.

In June, the Singhs' neighbor, Mary L. Bowman, cut down 200 trees in her back yard under a court order from Baltimore County Circuit Judge Alfred L. Brennan Sr.

The judge's order followed a 1995 jury verdict that found the trees violated a covenant restriction prohibiting a hedge in the 60-foot buffer along a property line.

Although the community association in the 54-home development of half-million-dollar homes decided the trees did not constitute a banned hedge, the Singhs sued Bowman and won.

The latest suit claims the board of directors' "charades put [the] Singhs in a disadvantageous position" that cost them nearly $200,000 in legal fees to win their seven-year battle against Bowman.

Bowman is also named as a defendant in the new suit, because she was a member of the board during the tree dispute. She declined to comment this week.

Steven Dimond, president of the Green Spring homeowners group, said, "We think it's a completely unfounded complaint, but with legal action pending, we are not going to comment."

In a Dec. 31 letter to homeowners, Dimond wrote that "a counterclaim for legal sanctions against the Singhs is under consideration by the named Defendants."

Several of the defendants named in the suit are Baltimore lawyers -- including James B. Astrachan, Neil Lewis and William M. Hesson Jr.

The suit states that the Singhs purchased their lot in 1981 "primarily because of the splendid view that lot afforded sweeping views of tree-covered hills and Greenspring Valley, beautiful open countryside and view of [the] Towson skyline beyond."

In alleging a conspiracy, the couple accuses the community association's board of directors of enforcing the community's covenants "arbitrarily and capriciously" and of giving "preferential treatment" to Bowman.

The Singhs also accuse board members of making "misrepresentations" in Circuit Court during the tree dispute when they testified on Bowman's behalf, of denying the Singhs access to board documents, and of "barring" the Singhs from speaking at board meetings.

Mrs. Singh said that although they won their first case, she and her husband decided to serve the new suit because of an attempt -- though unsuccessful -- by Bowman and some neighbors to amend the covenants to allow trees within the restricted "hedge" area.

Pub Date: 1/16/98

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