White Oak faces another lawsuit

Published 3:12 pm Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Developers negotiating with possible partner to re-launch White Oak

White Oak Development Partners, LLC has been sued by a property owner while still facing a lawsuit filed by Polk County for failure to make payments for a water line.

White Oak is currently negotiating with possible development partners in hopes of settling debts and re-launching the development, according to Phillip Feagan, who represents White Oak.

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Donald and Priscilla Neault filed a lawsuit in Polk County Civil Superior Court on Nov. 4 claiming that White Oak did not adhere to an agreed buyback provision in their contract. The Neaults’ suit says that White Oak agreed to buy back the property, purchased for $448,000, if the development did not complete the golf course and equestrian facilities as proposed.

White Oak completed nine holes of the planned 18-hole golf course around October 2008, but since that time has not completed further work, and the planned golf facilities of Club at White Oak have never been completed, the lawsuit said.

“In the time since their purchase of the property, the Neaults have repeatedly expressed their concerns to White Oak about the lack of progress on the golf facilities,” the lawsuit states.

The Neaults sent a letter on June 10, 2011 that formally exercised their rights under the addendum to the contract and demanded that White Oak repurchase the property, and White Oak has failed and refused to repurchase the property, states the lawsuit.

White Oak also faces legal action by Polk County, which has filed a lawsuit against the development for not completing payments for a water line the county constructed at an initial cost of $359,505. To date, according to county officials, White Oak still owes the county $115,752.50 after the last payment of $5,000 was made on March 25, 2011.

White Oak attorney Phillip Feagan answered Polk County’s lawsuit on Nov. 8, saying the development admits it owes money to the county but asks that the lawsuit be amended to include payments made to the county since the initial lawsuit was filed in 2010. At the time the lawsuit was filed, White Oak still owed Polk County $135,752.50 and has since made payments.

Feagan said White Oak has never indicated it doesn’t have the obligation to pay the county for the water line. He said currently White Oak is in negotiations to try to bring in a development partner to develop a new plan that would allow a re-launching of White Oak. Feagan added that negotiations with a development partner would include taking care of the water line obligation as well as paying the county taxes owed.

“(White Oak developers are) hoping they are going to be able to make something happen,” Feagan said.

Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson said the county is still waiting for a court date for the lawsuit to be heard. He said in the meantime, the county will not turn water on for the property until the payment for the water line is made in full.

Currently five homes have been constructed at White Oak, with only one obtaining a final certificate of occupancy. All of the houses applied for septic improvement permits except one, which stated it was going to have a community system for both septic and well, according to the Polk County Building Inspections Office.

White Oak made agreements to receive water from Polk County and sewer service from the Town of Rutherfordton. According to Rutherfordton officials, White Oak paid approximately $2 million for sewer lines, which the city required prior to construction of the lines.

Polk County required White Oak to pay half of the total prior to construction of the water line. The remaining half was originally set to be paid by Aug. 31, 2009.

White Oak also owes Polk County $38,559 for its 2010 taxes.

White Oak is a proposed subdivision and golf course on approximately 1,000 acres in the Green Creek Township with initial plans for nature trails, a golf course/clubhouse, a vineyard, an equestrian center, a lake with fishing areas and tennis facilities, among other amenities.

White Oak is not the only subdivision with pending lawsuits currently. Chocolate Drop, located in Columbus, also faces several lawsuits filed by property owners who claim they were sold land that is not suitable for development.