Vista Del Mar wins land dispute

Vista Del Mar Developments Ltd. has won its legal dispute against two people who purchased a plot of land there in 2009 but were forced to sell the land back after not starting construction in time.

The dispute was over whether Vista Del Mar – a gated community off West Bay’s Yacht Drive comprised of oceanfront and canalfront lots – has the right to repurchase the plot of land from the two people for $462,460.

Vista Del Mar won both the Grand Court case and the appeal, but the owners who purchased the property were granted leave in 2017 to have their case heard in the Privy Council.

According to court documents, Vista Del Mar has contracts with its property purchasers stating that they must build residences on their lots within certain time frames. Otherwise, the residential development has the right to repurchase the land.

The property owners, Janet Francis and Dwight Clarke, purchased their plot in May 2009 and were supposed to commence construction by November 2010, an appeals court judgment on the matter states.

The purchasers were granted an extension, but still had not commenced construction by October 2013. On that month, Vista Del Mar told them that it intended to repurchase the plot for its original purchase price, $462,460.

More discussions ensued, during which the property owners insisted that construction would start soon. But with still no building started by October 2014, Vista Del Mar issued its writ seeking to enforce the repurchase agreement.

At the Grand Court hearing, the property owners argued that the repurchase should not be enforced for several reasons, including that the alleged option had lapsed and because Vista Del Mar came to court with “unclean hands”, in that it had enforced the covenants requiring construction of residences in an uneven and discriminatory manner.

In a September 2016 judgment, Grand Court Justice Ingrid Mangatal rejected all of Francis’s and Clarke’s arguments. A June 2017 appeals court ruling also rejected their arguments.

The result of last November’s Privy Council hearing was no different.

At the hearing, the appellants suggested that financial gain was one of the primary motivations Vista Del Mar had to repurchase the land. The land has increased in value by some 50% since the appellants purchased it in 2009, and so Vista Del Mar would have a windfall profit opportunity if it is allowed to repurchase the property at its original price, the appellants argued. Nevertheless, the Privy Council sided with Vista Del Mar.

“The appellants’ contention that they are entitled to resist specific performance because [Vista Del Mar] exercised its rights against them in a discriminatory manner was rejected by both the judge and the Court of Appeal. The judge found that it was not made out on the facts. There is no basis on which the Board (the Privy Council) could come to a contrary conclusion,” the Privy Council said of the appellants’ “unclean hands” argument.

“In those circumstances, the Board will humbly advise Her Majesty that this appeal should be dismissed.”

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