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Wednesday, 19 August 2015 14:38

Former Monarch Ventures owner could face charges

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fr cullowheehousingThe Charlotte developer behind a 488-bed student apartment complex planned for Cullowhee could face criminal charges, pending the outcome of an Aug. 27 hearing.

Monarch Ventures, LLC, had been trying to build a development in Cullowhee since 2011, finally settling on the 11.7-acre South Painter Road site as the location. But last year things came to a halt when the company’s co-owners — Shannon King and Martha Thomly — became embroiled in a lawsuit. Thomly claimed that King had acted dishonestly, wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars and diverting money to other accounts. The two women agreed to dissolve the company, and N.C. Business Court issued a preliminary injunction ordering that all Monarch’s current business endeavors — including the Cullowhee development — stop immediately. 

But King’s involvement in Cullowhee didn’t end.     

King formed a new company, King Residential Group, of which she is the CEO. After the proposed development site went into foreclosure — the court had ordered all Monarch’s assets sold, but no buyers were found — the original lender bought it back. That company — Agarwal Family III, LLC — had Jackson County put its name on the permits originally issued to Monarch. That’s a routine kind of change, said Permitting and Code Enforcement Director Tony Elders, often performed when the original permit holder leaves mid-project. Permits follow the property, not the owner. 

But Agarwal Family continued to use King as the developer, and representatives from King Residential Group showed up at a June planning board meeting requesting approval of their development plans for the property. 

The Smoky Mountain News reported on the meeting and King’s affiliation with the company, and Superior Court Judge Louis Bledsoe III cited that article in his order that King show up and explain just why Bledsoe should not hold her in contempt of court. 

The October preliminary injunction was pretty clear that all activity related to Monarch’s business dealings — including the Cullowhee development — cease while the court case was settled, and there’s probable cause that King violated that by continuing her involvement with the property. 

County Attorney Jay Coward agrees. 

“A preliminary injunction means that everything has to stay the same during the duration of the court proceedings,” he explained. “Nothing can happen. When she got those additional permits, basically she was disobeying the orders.”

It’s important to note, Coward said, that the order was filed by the judge himself, rather than in response to a motion filed by one of the disputing parties. 

“It’s a pretty serious matter when a judge enters an order on his own,” Coward said. 

Bledsoe’s order states that King will bear the burden of proof to show that her actions don’t constitute contempt of court. If she doesn’t show up to the hearing, then the judge can send law enforcement to bring her in. Following the hearing, the judge could decide that King’s actions warrant either civil, criminal, or no charges. 

While the situation plays out, Coward is urging county leaders to refrain from approving any additional plans or permits for the property. Erosion control and land development permits for the property have already been issued and are good until 2017. But so far, no building permit has been issued, and until the case is resolved Coward has recommended that the county keep it that way. 

“The county should not take any more action on anything until we get a little better understanding of what’s going on,” Coward said. 

King did not respond to an email requesting comment.

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