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Status denied, but path opens
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Forsyth County News
For a third time, class-action status has been denied in a lawsuit filed to stop development of Lanier Golf Course.

However, the State Appellate Court maintained in its decision last week that resident Michael Peck still has a case.

Peck filed suit in 2007 against Lanier Golf Club on behalf of himself and about 120 other landowners adjacent to the course.

Peck’s attorney, Bob McFarland Sr., said he thinks the case will go back before Cherokee County Superior Court Judge Frank Mills, the trial court
judge who in 2009 dismissed the case.

“In all this two and a half years of fooling around we haven’t ever gotten to the main issue,” McFarland said. “So it appears to me that we’re going to be in a position to get to the main issue, but only as to one plaintiff, Michael Peck.”

McFarland explained that the “main issue” in the case is whether there is an implied easement to the golf course.

The Appellate Court’s decision states that the trial court wasn’t wrong to deny class-action status, but its dismissal of the complaint after ruling on the motion was improper.

In his order, Mills wrote that Peck failed to prove he is a member of the group he hoped to represent and that no document restricting the 172-acre property as a golf course has been found.

Court documents show that Peck’s complaint was filed to restrict use of the property to a golf course. However, its owners, Jack Manton and George Bagley Jr., had other plans.

Wellstone LLC had entered a $35 million contract in 2006 to buy the site from the men, contingent upon its rezoning, and build a large residential development that included a continuing care retirement center.

The course owners filed suit against the county in 2007 after the commission denied their request to rezone the property from agricultural to a master planned district.

Wellstone joined the suit with Manton and Bagley, but dropped out in 2009 when it moved its headquarters to Texas.

In a separate case, Appalachian Judicial Circuit Court Judge Roger E. Bradley ruled late last month that the agricultural zoning was unconstitutional.

Manton and Bagley said in a statement Friday that they were pleased with the timeliness of the Appellate Court’s decision in Peck’s case, which they called “a vindictive, frivolous lawsuit based upon no relevant facts or applicable law to support its claims.”

The statement goes on to say that Manton and Bagley plan to seek attorneys and litigation fees from Peck in an amount exceeding $100,000.

“Lanier Golf Club has no choice but to vigorously defend our constitutional property rights and aggressively respond to individuals or groups that frivolously file suits with no legal basis,” the statement said.

McFarland said there are options with the Peck case, including a request for review by the Georgia Supreme Court, and that no decisions have been made on what happens next other than it can proceed to final judgment.

Class-action status was first denied in the case in September 2008.