SNOW HILL – White Horse Park’s board of directors has now joined Worcester County in its efforts to end year-round occupancy in the community.
Attorney James Almand, representing the White Horse Park Community Association Inc., filed a motion to intervene Saturday in the lawsuit filed against Worcester County by some permanent residents of the park. While those residents believe they should be able to continue to live in the community because its occupancy restrictions were never enforced, Almand says the association wants the park to remain seasonal.
“Everyone that owns a lot in the park took title subject to very clear and specific recorded restrictions against year-round occupancy,” Almand said in a statement. “Therefore, each owner knew or should have known that White Horse Park could not be used as a person’s primary and principal residence.”
Last month, a group of residents initiated a lawsuit against Worcester County over its plan to enforce decades-old occupancy restrictions at White Horse Park (WHP). Though some people have lived in the park fulltime for years, the county in 2018 began a campaign to bring the park into compliance with its zoning restrictions, which state that between Sept. 30 and April 1 units can’t be occupied for more than 30 consecutive days or an aggregate of 60 days.
Fulltime residents, many of whom are senior citizens, hired attorney Hugh Cropper to find a solution that would allow them to remain in their homes. Though Cropper tried to address the situation with an amendment to the county’s code, the Worcester County Commissioners rejected it and issued a letter in October stating their plan to fine residents who didn’t leave during the winter. Cropper in turn filed an administrative appeal and a complaint for declaratory judgement. He contends that the county has waived its right to fine residents over fulltime occupancy since officials have been aware that people were living in the park year-round since the 1990s. The lawsuit filed in November points out that residents have been required to install sprinklers, which are only required in year-round residences, have HUD conforming mortgages consistent with year-round occupancy and pay property taxes consistent with year-round occupancy.
Almand, however, said the park’s board of directors wants the community to remain the seasonal recreational campground initially created by the developed in the 1980s. He said the association wants the court to rule that the occupancy restrictions are valid and to order the permanent residents of the park to cease using their lots for principal residency. In the counter-complaint accompanying the motion he filed Saturday, Almand states that for most of the park’s existence, lots were occupied seasonally until a few lot owners began renting their lots to year-round tenants without the knowledge of the board. He said park property owners who did follow the occupancy rules eventually complained to the board and demanded enforcement.
“WHP is not set up for year-round occupancy, and the association’s budget is based upon WHP being used as a seasonal campground, not as a 12-month community,” the complaint reads. “Year-round occupancy in WHP adversely impacts on the quality of life in WHP, the value of lots and the assessments incurred by lot owners.”
Melissa Peters, acting president of the park, said the board unanimously agreed and felt it had no choice in the matter.
“As officers and directors, we have a fiduciary duty to enforce the recorded Declaration of Restrictions,” she said. “Almost 80% of the 465 lot owners are in compliance with the recorded restrictions, and those lot owners do not want to incur the added expenses associated with turning White Horse Park into a year-round community. On recommendation of our attorney, the board decided to join in the pending case to resolve the matter as soon as possible and to end the turmoil in the park over the issue.”