Judge: Unclear whether York Co. met contract obligations in MorningStar development

It’s unclear whether York County or MorningStar Ministries broke their contractual obligations to one another pertaining to a development agreement signed nearly six years ago to repair a 21-story hotel building in Fort Mill, a county judge said this week.

MorningStar sued York County for breach of contract nearly 18 months ago after county officials wrote the church a letter saying the church had defaulted on the agreement by failing to provide financial information about the development project. In June, the county asked Master-in-Equity Judge Jack Kimball to dismiss the church’s claims.

Kimball ruled on Thursday partly against the county’s motion for a summary judgment in the suit.

In its lawsuit, the church contends that York County failed to fulfill its obligations under the development agreement and that county officials botched the tower renovation project.

The county argues that MorningStar should have, under the contract, provided proof of its ability to pay for the re-development of the hotel tower. The development agreement calls for MorningStar to provide that documentation soon after county officials approve the church’s site plan for the tower renovation.

County officials have provided proof in court filings that they approved the site plan in 2009 but MorningStar claims they were not properly notified of the approval. Church officials argue that they didn’t realize their deadline to provide financial information had passed, until it was too late and York County had notified them of defaulting on the agreement.

In 2009, the county sent the site approval documentation to MorningStar’s project engineer. The church claims the paperwork should have been mailed instead to Rick Joyner, MorningStar Fellowship Church’s president.

Kimball wrote in an order on Thursday that York County may have met its obligation by notifying MorningStar’s project engineer. It’s clear, he said, that the engineer was “designated as (MorningStar’s) representative and agent for dealing with the county ... and that part of (his) duties included dealing with the county on all aspects of approval of the site plan.”

But, Kimball said, he could not rule in summary judgment on the site approval argument until more facts are presented. He agreed with the county on one part of its summary judgment motion. Kimball dismissed MorningStar’s claim that the county breached “an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.”

In South Carolina, he said, “breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing” is not recognized as a separate legal claim in a lawsuit.

The county and the church struck the development deal after some failed renovation projects and years of waiting for the tower to be torn down. In court filings, county officials describe the building as a “nuisance” that “has dominated the Fort Mill skyline for a generation.”

MorningStar bought the building and surrounding 52 acres in 2004 for $1.6 million. The church’s most recent financial information available values the tower at $10 million.

The unfinished hotel tower, near Regent Park in Fort Mill, was partially built in 1986 for televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Heritage USA, a Christian-themed resort and park. The Bakkers, best known for their televised “PTL Club,” abandoned development plans in the 1990s after declaring bankruptcy.