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Harborside Owners: Threat to Value of Our Investment

komosatp

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I posted this message on another thread, but that discussion has veered away from the subject of that thread. I'm now posting this in it's own thread in the hopes that people will comment on what I say.

The issues that threatens the value of our investment is that Atlantis is not officially granting us owners (and our guests) access to two new pool areas near The Cove and Reef. Given the contract that we all made with Starwood & Atlantis when we purchased our units, we should have access to these pools. If we allow Atlantis to unilaterally alter Harborside's access agreement with Atlantis, then the value of our units is significantly diminished.

How do I come to this conclusion? Based on our original access deed, Harborside guests should be classified as if they are guest of The Cove or Reef, not in the Royal towers.

The Background:

Before The Cove was built, all guests in Atlantis’ hotel rooms were in the same class. Yes, the Royal Towers were the nicest rooms, but there was no differentiation amongst guests based on what tower they were staying in.

But now Atlantis has made some things exclusive to guests in The Cove and Reef. Ergo, Atlantis is now classifying guests based on which tower they stay in. What’s wrong with that you ask? Doesn’t Atlantis Have the right to run its business as it sees fit? Absolutely, yes it does.

But it also made a promise to us Harborside owners. It promised us that Harborside owners will always be considered to be the same as guests in “the Atlantis Resorts’ premier luxury Hotel Rooms".

Section 1.1.4 of the original access deed (dated January 27, 2000) addressed the possibility that Atlantis might build something better than the Royal Towers and assures Harborside owners that their access will always be a premier level of access. It says that Harborside guests will be treated as if they are “occupying hotel rooms at the Royal Towers at Atlantis or any such other Hotel Rooms as may be intended to replace the Royal Towers Rooms as the Atlantis Resorts’ premier luxury Hotel Rooms”

So last year I contacted Starwood and Harborside to raise this issue. The bottom line is that Atlantis is maintaining that The Cove is not “the Atlantis Resorts’ premier luxury Hotel Rooms” despite the fact that The Cove has the highest starting rates, the largest standard rooms, the most luxurious in-room amenities, and access to exclusive pool areas.

Why Should We Care:

The spirit of the agreement we all made with Atlantis assured us that we‘d always be treated just like the typical guest in the nicest tower at Atlantis. The addition of The Cove was the first time that this promise has been tested since Harborside was started. And Atlantis has decided to find a way out of its promise, and come up with a contrived technicality to deny us something we are entitled to.

Additionally, the capitulation by Starwood and our board really disappointed me. The people that are supposed to be representing you and me (the directors of our vacation clubs and condominiums) decided that Atlantis’ position on this was reasonable and acceptable. A lawyer at Starwood responded to the issues I raised, summarizing the position of the board and from that letter it was clear to me that our board of directors was not looking out for the owners’ best interests, but Starwood’s business relationship with Atlantis (the President of our condo and vacation club board, Thorp Thomas, is an officer in Starwood’s vacation ownership company).

From a financial perspective, another important issue is Atlantis’ position on this matter, and Starwood’s/our club’s directors acceptance of it, threatens the value of our investment. I’m sure most of us bought at Harborside because of its relationship with Atlantis. If Atlantis is allowed to unilaterally decide where Harborside owners may and may not go on property, then what is our investment really worth? And what does the future hold if we don’t assert our rights now?

So if this is just the first of many additions to come to Atlantis, shouldn’t we set the precedent now that Harborside owners are not a bunch of chumps who Atlantis can treat in any way it wants? If we don’t, I worry that the next fantastic addition to Atlantis will be off-limits to us lowly timeshare owners.

Personally, I'm not that interested in accessing these two new pools. But Atlantis should either be granting us access or we should be re-negotiating an access agreement and new (lower) annual access fees that reflect the fact that were not getting access to the entirety of Atlantis.

What I’ve Done:

Last year I signed a retainer with a class action lawyer to represent our interest. He was successful at getting Atlantis to own up to its mistakes in the past, but it’s become clear to me that he’s not interested in moving forward.

I’ve been slow in prodding him to move, and I hadn’t posted on this board in deference to him devising a legal strategy. But now it seems we’re on our own again and I’d like to get some measurement of how interested other people are in this issue. So if you care, or think this is dumb, please post here so I can decide how much time to dedicate to this issue.

Thanks for reading this far.
 

LisaRex

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While it seems clear to me that you are right, I think your biggest hurdle will be finding other Harborside owners who will be willing to fork out the money to hire an attorney. Best case scenario is that you'll win the right to swim in The Cove pool. How much is that worth to folks, esp if you only have a small percentage of owners participating in this thread? How do you get the word out to spread the cost?
 

jarta

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"It says that Harborside guests will be treated as if they are “occupying hotel rooms at the Royal Towers at Atlantis or any such other Hotel Rooms as may be intended to replace the Royal Towers Rooms as the Atlantis Resorts’ premier luxury Hotel Rooms” "

I have a question. Can the people who stay in Royal Towers rooms "officially" use the Cove facilities? If the answer is yes, you are undoubtedly right. Harborside guests should have equal access to that of Royal Towers guests.

But, I assume it's no - the Royal Towers people "officially" can't use the Cove facilities. That weakens your argument substantially.

In the other thread (I have read it), most Harborside visitors have indicated they had no trouble getting to use the Cove facilities in non-peak weeks when those facilities were not crowded, despite the "official line" that they can't.

I understand your frustration, but I doubt the value of your Harborside week(s) has been diminished by the creation of the Cove facilities. Maybe that's why your lawyer is reluctant to move forward to counter the argument that the Cove is actually separate and apart from the Atlantis Resort (sure looks like it is when nobody has "rights" to use the Cove facilities but Cove guests - sort of like the Atlantis guests having no right to use the Harborside facilities).

I own at Harborside and will be there at the end of November. I'll try to remember to post what I find about how hard it was to gain access to the Cove facilities.
 

komosatp

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While it seems clear to me that you are right, I think your biggest hurdle will be finding other Harborside owners who will be willing to fork out the money to hire an attorney.
That could be a problem, but not the only one. I think we don't necessarily need to pay out of our own pockets. A lawyer could and should take this on contingency (the lawyer I signed with did) but it's a big risk for the lawyer because Atlantis could simply capitulate. The nature of the case would the change significantly in that scenario.
Best case scenario is that you'll win the right to swim in The Cove pool. How much is that worth to folks, esp if you only have a small percentage of owners participating in this thread?
The best case would probably include some money back from Atlantis.

If Atlantis simply capitulated, owners would be due a small amount of the access fees they paid since the opening of the Cove back. This could make the case very un-economical for a lawyer since we each get just a few percent of those dues back. Punitive damages might be minor in this scenario too.

What's more likely, however, is that Atlantis wants to keep The Cove and The Reef 'exclusive'. In that case, us owners are due a lot more back, and the access deed/agreement needs to be completely renegotiated. This could be very lucrative for a lawyer because we'd each be due a material percentage of our original purchase price back because the access deed is a very valuable component of what we purchased at Harborside. If Atlantis no longer wants to grandfather us into the best accommodations at Atlantis, then they have to pay us for the diminished value of our investment and lower the annual access fee each of us pays. Plus pay us back a bit for the past few years of inflated fees.

But I wouldn't consider the second scenario best case....its better than our current situation of paying 100% access but only getting 92% (or 75% or 99%...who knows) access, but it would open up the grandfather cause. Personally, I'd rather have access to 100% and pay 100%

How do you get the word out to spread the cost?
The Harborside associations should actually engage the lawyer on this matter. But since they (the starwood execs) are more interested in maintaining a nice working relationship with Atlantis, they're not too into injecting any disputes into their relationship.

Otherwise, I don't think its possible if owners have to pay a lawyer out-of-pocket. Which is why I've focused on finding someone who will take this on contingency as a class-action or derivative/stand-in case (where one owner represents the interests of all owners). And is why I'm here: if I'm the only one who cares, I have better things to do with my time. But if there's lots of people who think we ought to proceed, I'll keep looking for the right lawyer a little longer.
 

komosatp

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I have a question. Can the people who stay in Royal Towers rooms "officially" use the Cove facilities? If the answer is yes, you are undoubtedly right. Harborside guests should have equal access to that of Royal Towers guests.

But, I assume it's no - the Royal Towers people "officially" can't use the Cove facilities. That weakens your argument substantially.

In the other thread (I have read it), most Harborside visitors have indicated they had no trouble getting to use the Cove facilities in non-peak weeks when those facilities were not crowded, despite the "official line" that they can't.
Officially, I have a letter from a lawyer at Starwood communicating the findings of Harborside's board when they investigated this matter. Officially, Harborside owners do not have access. Officially, Atlantis is maintaining that The Cove has not replaced the Royal Towers Rooms as the Atlantis Resorts’ premier luxury Hotel Rooms.

In practice, I too have seen many people report that they were able to use these facilities.

I understand your frustration, but I doubt the value of your Harborside week(s) has been diminished by the creation of the Cove facilities. Maybe that's why your lawyer is reluctant to move forward to counter the argument that the Cove is actually separate and apart from the Atlantis Resort (sure looks like it is when nobody has "rights" to use the Cove facilities but Cove guests - sort of like the Atlantis guests having no right to use the Harborside facilities).
They can't (and didn't) argue that The Cove is separate...it's pretty indisputable from the map in our amended access deed.

I don't think the creation of the Cove is or was a threat. The threat is that we have not been grandfathered.

The Cove obviously has 'the Atlantis Resorts’ premier luxury Hotel Rooms'. But for this purpose only, Atlantis is denying this common sense fact. Which, to me, says that Atlantis sold us a very valuable and durable access deed, but doesn't intend to abide by it.
 
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