MOUNT PLEASANT — The developers of the town’s high-profile I’On neighborhood are facing a civil lawsuit over a deal that allows the Creekside Park and Community Dock to be used mainly for private events.
The case, set to go to a jury trial this week, casts a blemish on one of the Lowcountry’s most well-known and publicized new neighborhoods, a neo-traditional, dense neighborhood where buyers exchanged large yards for shared common spaces.
I’On resident William Hamilton, a lawyer and likely witness for the plaintiffs, said the issue “has been deeply destructive to our community.”
The suit, brought by I’On property owners Brad Walbeck and Lea Ann Adkins as part of the I’On Assembly, revolves around the 2009 sale of a 0.75-acre deepwater parcel with a boat ramp and the neighborhood’s 3,000-square-foot Creek Club.
I’On residents have an easement on the property, but the buyer, Mike Russo of 148 Civitas LLC, currently closes the property for weddings and other special events. Residents say he can completely cut off their right to access the deepwater property after 2030.
Joshua Evans, an attorney representing the neighborhood, said a settlement was reached a year ago, but 148 Civitas backed out.
“The developer sold the residents on the idyllic setting with the iconic boat landing on deep water. Then he sold it out from under them,” Evans said. “Now, they have to compete with brides for use of their boat landing. ... As you can imagine, the days and times that folks want to use the landing are the same days and times that the venue is booked.”
Evans said residents and state and local regulators were told the deepwater public access would be permanent.
Attorney Brian Duffy, who is representing I’On developers Vince and Tom Graham, declined to comment with the trial approaching.
“All I’ll say is there’s certainly another side of the story that we look forward to presenting at trial,” Duffy said. Attorney Charles Altman, who represents Russo and 148 Civitas, did not return phone messages left last week.
Hamilton recently asked his neighbors for input about their feelings as the trial approaches. He sent them a letter saying, “We must remember that in I’On we came to build not only a neighborhood for ourselves but a model of community for the 21st century for others.
“I can accept the disappointing failure of I’On,” he added, “but betraying the concept of neighborhood and community in our culture for others less affluent than ourselves is an abuse of privilege I won’t accept.”
The trial, to be held before Circuit Judge Stephanie P. McDonald, is expected to last at least a week.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.