When Chris Smith bought his home in the Grande Pointe neighborhood in Inlet Beach in 2010, he believed he was buying into a neighborhood where all the homes would be a Coastal Cottage architectural style -- at least that was what he was told.
However, the original developer had to file for bankruptcy and the community's remaining 70 lots were bought in 2014 by the Montgomery-based real-estate holding company Inlet Beach Holding Company.
In 2016, that company sold the last 46 lots to DR Horton Homes, a home-builder based in Texas, but with operations throughout the panhandle.
Through the change in ownerships, neither of the two latest owners have abided by the covenants established by the original developer.
"We have to follow the rules, but they do not," said Smith.
Smith had a seat on the board as a voice for homeowners until February of this year, but was voted off when he pointed out to them that they were not following the neighborhood's covenants and rules. People representing the developer now occupy all four seats of the homeowners association.
Smith said he and the other homeowners have tried to work with the new owners to no avail.
DR Horton and Inlet Beach Holdings did not return calls seeking comment on this article.
Last week, 16 Grande Pointe homeowners filed suit in Circuit Court against Inlet Beach Holdings and DR Horton in an attempt to force them to turn over control of the neighborhood to Grande Pointe's homeowners association, and homeowners have put up signs in the neighborhood warning potential buyers about the HOA. DR Horton sent out letters to the homeowners advising that such signs are prohibited, but Smith said the signs aren't coming down until DR Horton follow the rules.
"There are plusses and minuses of living in a planned community that has an Architectural Review Committee," said Smith. "There are rules and we want them to follow the rules. When Inlet Holdings voted me off, they did that with no meeting of the homeowners. We tried to work with them, but they don't agree that it should belong to the homeowners. We have to gain control. We aren't against DR Horton building in the neighborhood if they can build the coastal cottage style that is raised off the ground and has porches, which was the original plan for the neighborhood."
Trey Howland is another homeowner at Grande Pointe who is unhappy with the way things are going.
"When all the lots were sold, control of the neighborhood should have gone to the homeowners," he said. "The only meeting we have been invited to was when they took over and introduced themselves to us. We are asking a judge to declare that we have control of the HOA."
Howland said he believes the two companies are guilty of negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and not following the ARC rules of the neighborhood.
"Many meetings we were never notified of, and we are not given copies of financial statements or budgets as required by state law," he said. "Our (community association manager) is in Alabama."
Howland has lived at Grande Pointe since 2011.
"When I bought in here, I agreed to abide by the neighborhood covenants and ARC standards," he said. "IBH did not, and DRH told us the ARC doesn't apply to them. They are building a home next to mine and not following our ARC standards. They are supposed to submit an application with plans and we determine whether the plans meet our neighborhood vision. They didn't. They just started building."
"We just want the rules to be followed for building and financials and meetings," he said. "Hopefully we can get these issues resolved. This is a fun neighborhood of full-time residents. We have chili cookoffs and cornhole games. We love it. If we didn't love it, we wouldn't be making such a stink."