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Lawyers halt meeting on Jones Creek lake lawsuit

Posted: June 25, 2012 - 9:54pm  |  Updated: August 14, 2012 - 9:26am

Follow @ColumbiaCounty A town hall meeting to discuss a lawsuit over property damage and environmental issues at Jones Creek Golf Club was abruptly canceled Monday after the defendants’ lawyers objected. “To avoid any legal issues with the court or accusations from the defendants, we believe it is better to postpone the scheduled meeting for tonight,” said fliers handed out to dozens of residents who had gathered at the clubhouse. The 175-page lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court last fall by Jones Creek Investors, the owners of the 195-acre golf course and related amenities, and by the environmental group Savannah Riverkeeper Inc. Named as defendants were Columbia County, CSX Transportation, which owns culverts and embankments that are alleged to have failed and contributed to the erosion damage, the owners of the Marshall Square project in Evans, the owners of Krystal River Commercial Park and Jones Creek Partners, which developed high-density townhomes near the golf course. The townhome project, known as Willow Lake Phase II, involves 10.8 acres, 9.3 acres of which were cleared to accommodate 43 lots for single-family homes adjacent to Willow Lake, a 6.3-acre pond that provides irrigation for the golf course and is also an aesthetic amenity for Jones Creek, the complaint said. Since the townhome project began, “discharges of eroded soils, sediments, sediment-laden storm water, rock, sand, dirt, debris and other pollutants into Willow Lake have increased, resulting in significant accumulations of sediment and repeated instances of turbid or visually impacted water,” the complaint said. The plaintiffs contend that poor engineering design, lax enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act and other misdeeds associated with the Willow Lake town-home project have allowed unchecked erosion to damage property and pollute the area’s streams and lakes with silt and litter. Such damages are in excess of $3.77 million and continue to mount because the problems remain uncorrected, said the complaint, in which the plaintiffs are seeking corrective action and damages; they have demanded a jury trial. Speakers at Monday’s meeting were to be Jones Creek attorney Martin Shelton and Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus. “What was intended to be an open discussion to address your questions about the current conditions of the golf course has been mischaracterized as a press conference,” the flier said.

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Comments (4)

Little Lamb

Violin Cases

Wow! What kind of intimidation was used to squelch freedom of assembly? Did the defense attorneys wear dark Armani suits? Were they carrying violin cases that might have had semiautomatic weapons inside?

If anything, I would have thought that the defense attorneys would have wanted the meeting to go on so they (the defense) might have gotten a hint of plaintiffs' strategies and be able to mount a better defense.

What did they accomplish by squelching the meeting?

Barry Paschal

Clarification

EDITED:

I discussed the issue with the writer, and here's the story behind the story: The out-of-town plaintiffs' attorney was until yesterday, apparently, unaware of the local rule in the court system that prohibits attorneys from discussing pending civil cases. The plaintiffs were informed of that rule and rather than simply admit they couldn't hold the meeting without violating court rules, they canceled and blamed the defendants for it.

Rob Pavey

I think I can make this a little clearer.....

When lawyers for the defendants (Columbia County and the developers) heard the plaintiffs were holding a town hall meeting to discuss the case, they alleged it was improper based on certain "local rules" in place for the federal court district that includes Augusta. Here is the rule: "LR 11.2 Release of Information by Attorneys in Civil Cases. It is the duty of every lawyer or law firm associated with the case not to release or authorize the release of information or an opinion, which a reasonable person would expect to be disseminated by means of public communication, in connection with pending or imminent civil litigation with which he or his firm is associated, if there is a reasonable likelihood that such dissemination will interfere with a fair trial or otherwise prejudice the due administration of justice."

Little Lamb

Thanks

Thanks for the clarifications. I am surprised that a dispute about silting within a county would be a federal matter. It is state laws and local ordinances that govern creeks and ponds, I would have thought. Who knew the feds would control this?

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