WS CE Resort Owner, LLC v. Holland, et al.Annotate this Case
A resort community in North Georgia included a golf course next to a subdivision. The current owner of the resort wanted to redevelop the golf course into a residential property, and several homeowners in the subdivision sued to stop it. The trial court concluded that the homeowners had an easement in the golf course and granted a permanent injunction preventing the course from being put to any other use, and the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari and vacated the Court of Appeals’ decision and remanded for further proceedings. Both courts below concluded that the homeowners acquired an easement in the golf course because their lots were bought with reference to a subdivision plat that designated a “golf course” next to the subdivision. The Supreme Court found that conclusion relied on a long line of decisions recognizing that easements in features like streets, parks, and lakes could be acquired on this basis, which amounted to an easement by express grant. But golf courses are different. Given the wide range of interests that an easement in a golf course could possibly include— interests in a view, access, use, or enjoyment, to name a few—merely designating a “golf course” on a subdivision plat and selling lots with reference to the plat "cannot give reasonable certainty as to the scope of a claimed easement." So, although subdivision owners might be able to acquire an easement in a given adjacent golf course, the intent to convey such an interest must be shown through evidence based in the relevant documents taken as a whole, rather than presumed based on the golf course’s mere designation on a plat.