Condo developer sued over environmental damage

TDEC says fill material rising 30 feet has clogged stream

John Rankin, the developer of the mostly vacant Braxton Condominiums in Ashland City, has been sued by the state of Tennessee for environmental damage inflicted on another property in Cheatham County.

The suit filed Friday accuses Rankin of dumping fill material, including construction and demolition waste, into a stream channel that flows into the Cumberland River. The “alterations” buried 1,500 linear feet of the stream and the tons of waste piled up to 30 feet in height, according to the lawsuit.

Due to the clogging of the stream, a lake with an area of several acres has formed and bacteria now coat the stream channel and everything in it, a Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation report said.

The alleged offenses were discovered by TDEC officials in February 2007 while the Braxton condos were under construction. The Ashland City Codes Department issued a stop-work order to Rankin in December 2006 and criminal charges for illegal dumping were also sought, according to the lawsuit.

The suit claims that Rankin said the move to dump fill material without TDEC approval was “foolish.” Following the initial findings against him, Rankin appealed to the Tennessee Water Quality Control Board but never showed up at his appeal date.

Rankin filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and lenders foreclosed on the 136-unit Braxton project last year, three years after the development was placed in receivership. Rankin now lives in New Hampshire.

The Davidson County Chancery Court lawsuit asks a judge to enforce a judgment of $321,250 in natural resource damages and civil penalties against Rankin.