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Landscaping job will get day in court

An executive for a builder waits to see exactly what the Cheval Property Owners Association is taking issue with.

By BILL COATS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 25, 2002


LUTZ -- The way Steve Barnier sees it, getting sued isn't all bad. In court, Barnier expects to finally find out what's irritating the Cheval Property Owners Association about a landscaping job he oversaw.

"I've been trying since July to get with them," complained Barnier, general manager of Mark Maconi Homes, the Palm Harbor home builder. "They've refused to meet with us."

David Schrader, the association's attorney, said last Friday he would try to get explanations for such questions for the Times. He had not called back by Wednesday.

The property owners association sued Maconi three weeks ago, alleging that the company didn't obtain approval of the association's Architectural and Landscaping Review Committee for the landscaping at a house on Rue Bordeaux. That's required in Cheval's deed restrictions.

But Barnier said, "We gave them a plan and they approved it."

He suspects the association must be upset about the way the plan was implemented.

"We haven't done anything wrong, short of maybe planting the wrong plant," Barnier said. "I could correct that in an hour."

Instead, the property owners association fined Maconi $500. The lawsuit seeks a judgment of that amount, plus interest and attorney fees. It doesn't ask the judge to order any landscaping changes.

The fine also strikes Barnier as peculiar. Maconi posted a $500 bond with the association before it built the house, and the association still has that money, he said. Why not just keep that $500 instead of suing for a separate $500? he asked.

"It's a perfect example of a waste of taxpayers' money, if you ask me," Barnier said.

On the other hand, he said, "This is the only way I feel I can force them to tell me what they want."

- Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 269-5309 or coats@sptimes.com.

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