Visiting Judge Dale A. Crawford has ruled in favor of Highland County resident Betty Clark in her civil case against the Enchanted Hills Community Association in Highland County Common Pleas Court.

According to the entry filed Nov. 1, Crawford ruled that Clark “is awarded a judgment against Defendant, The Enchanted Hills Community Association,” and determined the association “to be a defunct entity and not to be in existence.”

A damages hearing is scheduled for Dec. 10 at 10 a.m. Any remaining matter still pending against the association have been dismissed.

Crawford wrote “that the Defendant, The Enchanted Hills Community Association, has been served with Summons and copy of Complaint and attachments, and more than 28 days have elapsed since service of process, and the Defendant, The Enchanted Hills Community Association, has failed to answer, respond or otherwise plead.” Crawford ruled that since the “service of process is proper,” the Enchanted Hills Community Association “‘is in default.”

In March, Crawford granted a motion by counsel for Highland County resident Betty Clark to vacate an answer filed by the Enchanted Hills Community Association in Highland County Common Pleas Court. In that entry, Crawford said that the Enchanted Hills Community Association “does not have the legal authority” to represent itself in the pro se answer filed by the Association.

Crawford said that he would grant Clark’s request for a default judgment and would “wait until the conclusion of the case to render a final judgment against the Association.”

A court trial had been scheduled to begin in December.

As previously reported by The Highland County Press, a filing in May 2017 by the Fourth District Court of Appeals sent pending litigation between Clark and the Enchanted Hills Community Association back to Highland County Common Pleas Court. At that time, Appeals Judge Peter Abele wrote that “the lack of a proper final order with respect to the declaratory judgment claims means that the trial court’s decision granting summary judgment in appellee’s (Enchanted Hills) favor is not a final appealable order.

“Accordingly, based upon the foregoing reasons, we (the Court of Appeals) lack jurisdiction to consider appellant’s (Clark’s) appeal and must dismiss the appeal.”

In October 2017, Clark filed a complaint for declaratory judgment, injunctive relief and other legal and/or equitable relief against the EHCA in Highland County Common Pleas Court. On Jan. 16, 2018, the motion to vacate was filed by Clark’s attorney, Tyler Cantrell.

According to the motion to vacate, the Enchanted Hills Community Association “has not filed any valid answer, responded or otherwise pleaded and … is in default. As such, [Clark] is entitled to a default judgment pursuant to Civ. R. 55.”

The memorandum by Cantrell states that on Nov. 15, 2017, the defendants in the case – Anita Brewer, Connie Myers, Carol Morris, Greg Setola and Jeremy Myers – “filed a pro se answer in this matter.”

The memorandum says that by filing the answer, “the defendants have opened themselves up to potential fines and penalties for the unauthorized practice of law.”

“[Clark] requests that, as it pertains to Enchanted Hills Community Association, that the answer be vacated and/or stricken from the record in this matter,” the memorandum says. “[T]he alleged answer filed on the behalf of the Defendant Enchanted Hills Community Association is invalid and illegal. Therefore, Defendant Enchanted Hills Community Association is in default of answering this matter.”

Clark told The Highland County Press that all Enchanted Hills board members have resigned as of Nov. 12, 2017 and that there is currently not a board for the association.

In 2014, Ohio's Fourth District Court of Appeals affirmed a 2012 decision by the Highland County Common Pleas Court in which the local court ruled in favor of several plaintiffs in their litigation against the Enchanted Hills Community Association at Rocky Fork Lake.

With Judge Steven P. Beathard presiding in August 2012, the Highland County Common Pleas Court ruled in favor of approximately 14 residents of the Enchanted Hills Community Association, who had filed a civil suit against the subdivision regarding the collection and use of membership dues.

The 14 plaintiffs – Judy and James Keltz, Donald and Rhonda Brandenburg, Curtis and Anita Brewer, David Clark, George and Jean Geiger, Janet Lederer, Herbert Owens, Donald and Marjorie Ray and Willis Grove Inc. – were represented by Hillsboro attorney Lee Koogler.

The suit was filed against the Enchanted Hills Association.

The court ruled in 2012 that plaintiffs were entitled to a judgment against the defendant in the amount each has paid in excess of the annual payment of $25 for an initial lot and $5 for each subsequent lot from the year referenced in each claim.

The Enchanted Hills Community Association is a "planned community" and falls within the purview of Chapter 5312 of the Ohio Revised Code, the court said.

The board may not increase any assessment for common expenses – when the declaration limits the amount of such assessments – unless the owners amend the declaration as provided in ORC 5312.05(A) to allow the increased amount, the court said in 2012.

According to the Court of Appeals, the Enchanted Hills planned community consists of lots in the Enchanted Hills and Rocky Fork Point subdivisions of Paint Township, Highland County. In 1969, the owners of the subdivisions filed declarations of the covenants and restrictions, which authorized the creation of the association, subjected lot owners to an annual maintenance charge of $25 for the first lot and $5 for each additional lot they owned and specified that a written instrument signed by the owners of 60 percent of the lots in the community was required to amend the declaration.

The Appellate Court states: (The) restrictions and covenants may be amended or rescinded by written instrument signed by the then owners of 60 percent of the lots of this plat, which instrument of amendment or rescission shall be filed or recorded in the office of the recorder of Highland County.