Lender, Builder to Settle Wetlands Lawsuit over St. Simons Island in Georgia

By | September 13, 2022

A construction company and mortgage lender accused of damaging wetlands on a famous Georgia island have agreed to settle a federal lawsuit brought by landowners.

The site of the controversy is on picturesque St. Simon’s Island, which gained attention when part of the Netflix series “Pieces of Her” was filmed there last year. TowneClub Construction Co. and Mortgage of America, both of which owned parcels on the island, were accused of dumping dredge material into sensitive wetland areas, clearing vegetation; building drainage structures and violating permits while building a residential development.

The settlement amount was not disclosed in the court’s notice, filed last week, and parties are in the process of finalizing the agreement. The settlement comes two months after the U.S. District judge rejected a request from the construction firm that it be dismissed from the complaint. TowneClub Construction, which owned 34 lots in the subdivision, argued that the federal Clean Water Act does not allow suits against adjacent property owners who do not own the land in question.

The injured landowners had added TowneClub to the suit in 2021, arguing that without the company’s cooperation, Mortgage of America cannot implement best practices or comply with a state environmental permit. The plaintiffs also allege continuing violations and the continued presence of fill material, which affects adjacent wetlands.

The judge said in July that “it is clear plaintiffs have made the necessary allegations to sustain their claims against TowneClub. And this is so even though TowneClub undisputedly did not commit the initial violations.”

That made it possible that the builder could be held liable for some of the damages, creating potential implications for other wetlands litigation.

St. Simons Island, about an hour north of Jacksonville, Florida, is known for its nearby salt marshes, made famous by poet Sidney Lanier. It’s also steeped in Revolutionary War and Civil War-era history, including a slave ship rebellion.

Topics Lawsuits Georgia

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