Mansfield News

June 16, 2014

HOA could pay fees to settle lawsuit over Oliver Nature Park bridge

Residents say association should have fought the bridge near their property.

How to divvy up legal bills could be all that remains to settle five months of litigation triggered by a bridge in the Oliver W. Elmer Nature Park.

The homeowners association of the Estates of Creekwood, which backs up to the 80-acre park’s south side, has agreed to pay attorney fees of several residents who sued to fight the bridge and the city’s claim to land near the bridge, said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Bill Warren.

Warren said the proposed three-party settlement – the product of court-ordered mediation since early April -- also includes a proposed resolution to the land dispute between the city and the plaintiff residents. He declined to give details.

After the residents sued the city – and a judge rejected their requested temporary injunction -- they added their HOA board to the suit, claiming the directors should have fought the city’s property claims instead of waiting for the residents to go to court.

The HOA board first wants to find out how much of the legal costs that its insurer will cover before agreeing to pay the amount in a proposed settlement, Warren said Friday.

“Generally, the cost incurred by the plaintiffs’ group would be reimbursed,” Warren said. “We don’t know where they are with the insurance company.”

The homeowners association’s attorney could not be reached for comment last week.

If the HOA signs off on its part of the settlement, the next stop is the City Council for final action.

The plaintiffs – owners of the eight properties on a small lake just south of the city park -- contended the bridge would funnel park visitors onto a 13-acre greenbelt of trails and the lake that the neighborhood considers its own. That would increase their liability and erode their privacy and property values, according to their lawsuit, and several residents have insisted that has already begun.

The lake is owned by the Estates of Creekwood, a gated community within the Arbors of Creekwood, but the city claims ownership of the rest of the greenbelt. Park officials consider the disputed land crucial to extending the Walnut Creek Linear Park’s main trail onward from Oliver Park to the eastern city limits and Joe Pool Lake.

Dan Barrett, an attorney for the city of Mansfield, declined to comment on the settlement or on the case in general.

“I’m not going to discuss this until the city is under some obligation to act, and it’s not,” he said.

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