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RISA, plaintiffs settle in discrimination suit

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A settlement has been reached in a discrimination suit against the Ryderwood Improvement and Service Association (RISA) and representatives for both parties say the community should take this opportunity to move forward.

Announced Thursday in a special edition of Ryderwood Reporter, RISA’s monthly newsletter, the publication said, “an agreement has been reached between all parties,” bringing an end to a suit filed July 8, 2009.

The Plaintiffs, a total of 47 property owners, had been contesting RISA’s ability to restrict real estate sales to persons 55 or older, though RISA said they their practices were compliant with federal guidelines as a retirement community. The plaintiffs had been seeking compensation for their inability to broadly market their property, as well as punitive and personal damages. RISA had countersued for unpaid membership dues amounting to $35 per month per household, with some plaintiffs having not paid since 2007.

While details of the settlement were not described in the report, an attached release from Steve Goldstein, attorney for RISA, and Steve Leatham, attorney for the plaintiffs, said, “there are no winners or losers,” indicating the toll the suit has taken on the cohesion within the Ryderwood community.

“One of the incentives to settling the case was to eliminate the divisiveness, which the litigation caused on both sides,” stated the release. “On the rare occasions we were before [US District Court] Judge Settles in this case, he lamented the emotional cost of the litigation on all residents in what should be the golden years of the residents’ lives. He encouraged both parties to settle at every opportunity he had. We would both like to encourage the community to consider the settlement a means to end the divisiveness within the community.”

“To the extent that neighbors were not talking to neighbors,” continued the release, “or that anyone felt uncomfortable around others due to the litigation, please make every effort to put that behind you. We understand that there were strong views on both sides of the case, but it is time to put those views aside and embrace your neighbors so you can all enjoy the beautiful community that Ryderwood is.”

A trial for the suit had been scheduled for April 15, but the court was informed during an April 8 pretrial conference of ongoing settlement negotiations, and the trial was tentatively re-scheduled for April 29.

With the announcement of a settlement, the trial is expected to be stricken, though the court has yet to officially publish any such decisions, as of press time. It is expected a motion to dismiss the suit will be placed before Settles before long, officially ending the litigation.

In response to the announcement of settlement negotiations last week, RISA Board President Denny Knight said he would like to address the perception that Ryderwood is anti-family, which he said had been a misunderstanding cultivated during the suit.

“Ryderwood residents don't hate kids,” he stated April 12. “We love our grandchildren, and love it when they come to visit. Even like to show them off at our Friday night dinners, monthly town breakfast, and our Holiday dinners. Then we love it when they go back home, and anxiously await their next visit. Ryderwood is a great place for the grandchildren to come visit, but it is not conducive to their long-term living.”

It has also been indicated related lawsuits, which resulted from liens placed on plaintiff’s properties due to unpaid dues, have been resolved as well.

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