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Mt. Vintage’s Rainsford on hot seat for allegedly violating the law 139
times or more
posted January 7, 2009
EDGEFIELD – The
first meeting of the
County Council for 2009 was one that no doubt broke in its two newest
council members, Rodney Ashcraft and Genia Blackwell, in an
unprecedented fashion. After a routine third reading of an ordinance to
amend the current budget, Dennis Brite, of Mount Vintage’s “Third
Nine”, leveled serious allegations against Bettis Rainsford (Left) and
Vintage Development armed with emails, photographs, and the county’s
own ordinances to bolster his claims. “I can assure you if you or I had
violated the law 139 times the Sheriff would be on our doorstep with
handcuffs,” Mr. Brite said.
Mr. Brite, just one of the well-represented Mount Vintage contingents
at the meeting, was on the agenda to address what he called Mr.
Rainsford’s repeated empty promises to complete the infrastructure of
the new section of Mount Vintage that has been ongoing since 2006 and
remains unfulfilled in 2009. “Some would say this willful systematic
disobedience of the laws of this magnitude constitutes a form of
racketeering. Others might point out that if Mount Vintage solicits
payments for lots through the mail, which it did in my case, and I
suspect it still does, this could constitute a form of mail fraud since
no official plat approval has been recorded,” Brite continued.
Mr. Brite’s (Left)
troubles began when he and his wife bought a lot on the new
nine hole golf course section of Mount Vintage in April of 2006 with
the understanding that the construction of the infrastructure would
begin in April or May of 2006 and would be completed in a few months,
prior to the completion of the construction of their new home. Mr.
Brite stated that when he inquired again in June of 2006 he was told it
would begin in another six weeks. This was followed with repeated
promises throughout the year that never came to fruition.
In mid 2007, Mr. Brite said, he made a trip down to his property and
saw that some infrastructure materials had been delivered and he felt
that the required infrastructure would be getting underway and in March
of 2008 obtained a building permit to begin the construction of their
home. After ten months, “none of the infrastructure is complete,” Brite
said. “There’s no water to my lot, there’s no sewer, there’s no road,
there’s no cable, there’s no telephone, there’s no storm drains that
Mr. Brite said Mr. Rainsford and Mount Vintage had “elected not to pay
the contractor for the infrastructure work that had been completed up
to that point and thus Prince Grading and Excavation stopped all work
and pulled out of the subdivision, not once but twice.” According to
public records Mr. Prince placed liens on all unsold properties at
Mount Vintage in an effort to be paid for the work that had been
completed to that point. Records showed the liens totaled just shy of
Mr. Brite said after Mr. Prince received partial payment he lifted the
liens and began to continue the work again, but that was short lived
and after just a few weeks “being denied payment he (Prince) pulled out
again, and has been absent for at least a couple months” Mr. Brite said.
Mr. Brite said the only contractors that are working on the site are
those that do not have to be paid by Mr. Rainsford or Mount Vintage
including the electric company, phone company, and gas company.
A letter sent to Edgefield County Administrator prior to the meeting by
Mr. Rainsford stated that the infrastructure was 96.2% complete. After
submitting pictures to the county council Mr. Brite said, “If that is
96.2% complete (Mr. Rainsford) is using a whole new math I’ve never
heard of.” Regardless of what percentage of the work that is or is not
completed was irrelevant to those homeowners who cannot move into their
homes Mr. Brite said. “If I can’t get a certificate of occupancy it’s
Mr. Brite presented emails from various officials with Mount Vintage
stating the work would be completed in January of 2007; an email from
Mr. Rainsford in September of 2007 claiming the work would be completed
by year-end, another stating the work would be completed by February of
2008, and Mr. Rainsford’s letter to Administrator Pettigrew dated
January 2, 2009, stating the work would not be completed for “several
Mr. Brite then provided the county council with their own ordinance,
Title 15 Section 152.131, which states that, “No subdivision or land
development plat, portion, or phase thereof shall be accepted for
filing by the Office of Clerk of Court until it has been approved by
the Planning Commission or Zoning Administrator, and so indicated on
the plat by the signature of the authorized agent. No such
signature shall be affixed to the plat until the developer has
completed all required improvements or has posted a letter-of-credit,
cashiers check, performance bond or other acceptable security with the
county in the amount of 150% of the estimated cost of the improvements,
guaranteeing the completion of the improvements in compliance with the
No such bond, letter-of-credit, or cashiers check has been deposited
with the county. It was also later revealed that Mr. Rainsford and
Mount Vintage has never posted any of the required funds before selling
lots and no approval of any of the sold lots have the proper signature
required before transfer. This included not only the current new
section but for the entire development of Mount Vintage.
“Obviously the county has been grossly negligent in administering the
laws and allowing Rainsford and Mount Vintage not only to sell lots
prematurely but to collect in excess of $10 million in revenues and
allow this travesty to continue,” Mr. Brite said. “I am not here to
reprimand the council, quite the contrary; I’m here to ask for your
help to find an immediate solution to this problem.” Mr. Brite told the
county council, “What we have to do is make it painfully clear to
Rainsford that he is not above the law. He does not have the right to
take people’s hard earned money and do with it as he wants.”
Mr. Brite stated that he wants the county council to force Mr.
Rainsford and Mount Vintage to complete the infrastructure in 21 days
and insinuated that legal actions would soon follow if not done. Mr.
Brite also presented the council with a summary of his entire statement
as part of the record.
The county council members listened intently to Mr. Brite’s
presentations and Chairman Monroe Kneece was rather stoic and disturbed.
It was then that Chairman Kneece asked Mr. Rainsford, who had
previously said he did not intend to attend the meeting until council
requested his attendance, to respond to the allegations. Chairman
Kneece also pointed out that former Administrator Wayne Adams and
former Building and Planning Director Howard Gibson were the ones who
worked on the negotiations with Mr. Rainsford, “and this never came
before the council.” Chairman Kneece also made it clear that he did not
care about what promises had been made in the past because, “we’re
going to do what we need to do” to resolve it immediately.
Mr. Rainsford took the podium stating, “We are not apologetic one iota
for Mount Vintage Plantation,” saying they have tried to bring the
finest development possible to Edgefield County. He also stated he felt
Mr. Brite’s accusations were “in error” and that Mount Vintage has
invested over $16 million in the development of the new sections, or
the “third nine”.
Mr. Rainsford said sales of new lots came to a “critical level” in 2007
and that they hoped in the spring of 2008 things would improve but that
did happen. As such they had placed over $3 million into the project to
try to get the project completed.
Mr. Rainsford said that Mr. Brite’s statements that he or Mount Vintage
could borrow money during the current tough economic times were not
possible and that for over six months they have been trying to acquire
loans from the banking industry but that banks were not lending money
for real estate development. Mr. Rainsford stated that he felt that the
roads and infrastructure could possibly be completed by the spring of
2009 but that, “financial difficulties have been substantial”.
Mr. Rainsford stated that during the development he and Mount Vintage
did everything that Administrator Wayne Adams and Howard Gibson asked
them to do and that they were never asked to place a bond, check, or
other guarantees as required under the law. “At no time did anyone ask
us to do anything that we did not do,” Rainsford said.
Mr. Rainsford said that they intended to try to complete the work as
soon as possible but, “I don’t want to lead ya’ll astray, if we can’t
find the money it might not can be done. But that’s what our challenge
is to do that.” Rainsford said that there were other houses that were
completed with the infrastructure but this area “was a little behind
Rainsford continued, “Ya’ll need to appreciate the fact that banks have
absolutely completely slammed the door on making any real estate loans
at all. I’m sure ya’ll are sophisticated enough to know that.”
Councilman Rodney Ashcraft asked Mr. Rainsford if he was aware of the
performance bond that was required in order to perform such a
development. “I was not aware that we were required to have one. We did
exactly what we told we needed to do,” Rainsford said.
Chairman Kneece spoke up and said, “Bettis, as far as I remember back,
performance bonds have been required to build in Edgefield County as
long as I can remember. Guy (Muller), am I right or wrong?” Guy
Muller, of the Building and Planning Department, answered, “It’s in the
Land Use Ordinance.” Councilman Ashcraft asked, “So Mount Vintage has
been built without any performance bonds?” Mr. Rainsford answered,
Mr. Rainsford said he would suggest that the council look beyond these
matters and consider the amount of tax revenues that Mount Vintage has
brought in for the county over the past years. “That’s not the point,”
Chairman Kneece shot back. ”The point is right now that is these people
were promised that they would be in their homes and all by the time
they got built that the infrastructure would be there.”
After a bit of back and forth between Mr. Rainsford and some of the
property owners Chairman Kneece ended the discussion by saying, “In two
weeks I want, particularly with Mr. Brite, to see if he (Rainsford) has
gotten anything done and after that, why, get back with you and you
have to do something Mr. Rainsford. You’ve put the council on the spot.
We’ve worked together for quite a few years and, uh, to me a promise is
a promise and hopefully you’ll live up to it.” Chairman Kneece asked
Mr. Brite to give him a call in two weeks.
EdgefieldDaily.com checked out Mr. Rainsford’s claim that banks have
“completely slammed the door on real estate loans” and his claim that
in spite of their efforts for over six months no money was to be had.
On December 18, 2008 Mr. Rainsford and his partner received a $550,000
loan on two parcels (0.47 acre and 1.00 acre) from Southern First Bank.
© Copyright 2009
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without the expressed written permission of Edgefield Daily.com
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