LAGUNA NIGUEL — A group of rankled homeowners filed a lawsuit against a developer Friday, claiming that a new subdivision built next to theirs is ugly and garish. One homeowner described it as "Toon Town."
The suit in Orange County Superior Court alleges that Taylor Woodrow Homes California Ltd. of Newport Beach committed fraud and misrepresented the Amarante Homes development, where prices ranged from $350,000 to $500,000.
Jeffrey Prostor, vice president of Taylor Woodrow Homes, denied the allegations and said the lawsuit has no merit.
According to the suit, home buyers were told that the next group of homes built adjacent to their dwellings would be architecturally similar, meaning of equal or greater value.
In May, Mari Frank, who is an attorney and is among the 13 plaintiffs, said she looked out her bedroom window at the builder's three new Cabo del Mar models and "gagged."
"Here they were, smaller homes and in these weird colors: Dark orange, brown and beige with dark red tiled roofs and purple shutters. We said, 'What is this? This is not Amarante. This is Toon Town!"
Homeowners say that a real estate expert has told them that they could lose thousands of dollars on their properties because the Cabo del Mar homes are in a lower price range of $250,000 to $305,000.
The lawsuit also says the Amarante homes were marketed by Taylor Woodrow as "an exclusive community" that had to follow architectural standards, including color schemes.
"All along they told us one thing when they knew what they were going to be ending up with," Frank claimed.
Frank said homeowners went before their Marina Hills Homeowners Assn. this month seeking support to halt the new project. She said the homeowners won a vote of support for a settlement in which Taylor Woodrow would pay to change the colors of its new development and the homeowners would not sue for misrepresentation.
However, the offer fell through.
Frank said she has lived in her home for more than a year and during that time has built an addition and a swimming pool. But she said the newer, neighboring subdivision has dropped her property value by $100,000, according to a real estate expert she hired.
"A real estate friend of mine told me it's real hard to sell a house at $450,000, when a $250,000 house gets the same view," Frank said. "But these colors! . . . When I bought here, well, let me read you how they described this place. 'Soft muted hues of the Mediterranean Sea.' And, then there's, Toon Town!"
Prostor said he "was disappointed and surprised," by the filing of the lawsuit, especially considering the number of meetings where negotiations had taken place.
"I didn't expect it to go this far," Prostor said. "We've been responsible, that's why we've had those meetings where we've offered mitigation."
Prostor said the 13 plaintiffs include mostly married couples who live on the same street.
"All the people who have complained, are on the same street," Prostor said. "The Cabo del Mar project has been a success, we've even had people camping out (to buy homes) in it. So the buyers that are in there are excited about living there."
As for the alleged misrepresentations, Prostor said the company is "very careful" about California real estate law and what representations are made during the sale of the property.
The suit also alleges that the homes were poorly constructed and asks for injunctive relief to force the Cabo del Mar units to conform to Amarante architectural standards.
On Saturday, disgruntled members of the Marina Hills Homeowners Assn. plan a protest against Taylor Woodrow Homes at the corner of Via Marini and Mikro from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.