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High court rules in Polo stormwater dispute
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Forsyth County News

A split decision by the Georgia Supreme Court appears to have left the parties in a long-running dispute over stormwater pipes in Polo Golf and Country Club back at square one.

The high court ruled against the subdivision’s homeowners association on one matter  and sided with it in another. The issue centers on who is responsible for repairing pipes in the subdivision.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard declined to go into detail on the ruling, confirming only that he had received it.

“We are still considering it and will need to address the impact of the order with our clients to receive further instruction,” he said.

John Lueder, attorney for the association, did not return calls seeking comment.

The case began in 2006, when Polo residents John and Diane Rymer asked that the association fix the stormwater system. They contended the drainage pipes on their property did not properly carry water away from the lot during heavy rains.

The association eventually informed the Rymers it would be repairing the stormwater facilities of the entire subdivision, including those on the Rymers’ property. Those repairs, however, were never made, according to a case summary.

Eventually, pipes around the Rymers’ property completely failed, causing sinkholes on a number of lots and additional flooding to their property.

In 2010, the Rymers sued the association, which countersued and launched a suit against the county.

The Georgia Stormwater Management Manual provides a general rule that the owners are responsible for facilities on their property.

However, a 2004 Forsyth addendum gave an exception to the rule that when a subdivision has a homeowners association, the association would be responsible for the maintenance of the stormwater management facilities.

The Polo association’s argument, however, was that the addendum applied only to new and redeveloped subdivisions.

“Polo was developed nearly 20 years before the addendum was adopted,” the opinion said. “It is not a ‘new development’ or ‘redevelopment.’ Accordingly, it is not subject to section 4.2.2. of the addendum.”

The county later amended the ordinance to clarify the issue, however a judge would likely have to decide if that change could apply retroactively to the association.

The Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion, written by Chief Justice Hugh Thompson, reversed the trial court’s ruling in the dispute between the association and county.

The high court agreed that the 2004 county addendum to the manual did not apply to the association, which would not be responsible for paying for the repairs.

However, the decision upheld the trial court’s denial of the homeowners association’s motion because there is a “genuine issue of fact that jury must decide.”

“Under these facts, a jury could find that the Rymers reasonably relied upon Polo’s promise,” the opinion said. “Accordingly, it cannot be said the trial court erred in denying Polo’s motion for summary judgment in its dispute with the Rymers.”