David v. Martins Point Property Owners Association

Court of Appeals of South Carolina, Unpublished No. 2011-UP-086, March 1, 2011: Enforces a private negative deed covenant imposed for conservation purposes and enjoins construction of a dock at a community lot in a subdivision. (Opinion has no precedential value under SC rules.)

A small limited partnership (“LP”) developed Martins Point with the express goal “to preserve and protect the ecologically valuable area and to design and develop it in a low-impact, ecologically friendly manner” and thereby create “an opportunity to own prime waterfront property”. In 1991 the LP deeded to appellant Martins Point Property Owners Association (MPPOA) common area subject to the restriction that no dock could be built as an appurtenance to the common area. In 2005, MPPOA got a permit to construct a ninety-foot long fixed pier, ramp, and floating dock from the common area. The LP sought an injunction. MPPOA didn’t contest the meaning of the restriction but claimed the LP lacked standing and the restriction was no longer enforceable.

The Appeals Court found the LP has standing to enforce the restriction because its interest of minimizing environmental impact is served by limiting the number of docks and boating traffic on the waterfront site. “Likewise,” the Court found, “because the restriction serves the stated purpose of the LP’s development strategy, the clear restriction is not unenforceable for lack of serving a substantial purpose… [and] conditions have not changed to a degree significant enough to warrant ignoring the express deed restriction.”

A separate action against MPPOA, brought by Lowcountry Open Land Trust, Inc., seeking specific performance of an alleged conservation easement, was settled but because the lower court order on the LP’s case was prepared prior to settlement, it contained findings and conclusions (not reported in the appellate decision) relating to the conservation easement case.

Decision available at http://www.judicial.state.sc.us/opinions/displayUnPubOpinion.cfm?caseNo=2011-UP-086.

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