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Rhode Island's highest court heard arguments Tuesday in a fight that has pitted dozens of members of the Vanderbilt family against a nonprofit that owns several Gilded Age mansions in Newport.

The nonprofit Preservation Society of Newport County wants to build a visitors center on the grounds of The Breakers, a spectacular mansion built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II.

Dozens of preservationists, as well as designer Gloria Vanderbilt and nearly four dozen Vanderbilt relatives, have said the center as planned would "permanently mar" the national historic landmark.

Two members of the Vanderbilt family attended Tuesday's arguments before the Rhode Island Supreme Court over two separate lawsuits. But the arguments involved zoning and licensing issues raised by neighbors and the city, not the family's objections and the question of whether the center would hurt the historical integrity of the site.

The Preservation Society wants to build the center to give visitors a place to buy snacks and sandwiches, use accessible restrooms and buy tickets indoors. They have argued The Breakers is a museum, and museums should be allowed to serve food.

Daniel Prentiss, a lawyer for the neighbors' group, told the Supreme Court that The Breakers is in a residential zone in "one of the most famous neighborhoods in the country." The neighborhood is packed with mansions and bordered on one side by the Atlantic Ocean and Cliff Walk.

Allowing food to be served at The Breakers, Prentiss said, could open the door to museums serving food elsewhere in the neighborhood and city.

But Preservation Society lawyer William Landry said most museums around the world allow patrons to have a glass of wine and a meal, and the Preservation Society would have to meet certain requirements for food service.

"This is no license to have McDonald's in every museum in Newport," Landry told the justices, adding that The Breakers hosts 400,000 people from all over the world every year.

The Breakers, perhaps the grandest of Newport's summer homes, is not air conditioned.



The Supreme Court won't hear an appeal from shareholders who claim the Standard & Poor's ratings firm made false statements about its ratings of risky mortgage investments that helped trigger the financial crisis.

The justices on Monday let stand a lower court ruling that threw out a lawsuit filed by the Boca Raton Firefighters & Police Pension Fund against S&P's parent company, McGraw-Hill.

A federal appeals court ruled 2-1 that statements about the integrity and credibility of S&P's credit ratings used routine, generic language that did not mislead investors.

The shareholders argued that false statements regarding a central aspect of the company's business were enough to violate federal securities laws.



NC Appeals Court says DOT must pay landowners

  Real Estate  -   POSTED: 2015/02/18 16:42

The North Carolina Court of Appeals says the state transportation department must pay some landowners whose property is in the path of a proposed road in Forsyth County.
 
Multiple media outlets reported that a three-judge panel of the court ruled Tuesday that a lower court was wrong to refuse to hear a lawsuit by 11 landowners who said the state's designation of their land in the proposed road's path hurt their property values.

There is no indication when the road might be built.

The 11 landowners say the state's designation of their property in the path of the planned road limits what they can do with the land.

The state attorney general's office is consulting with transportation officials on the ruling. They could appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court.



A South Florida man won a U.S. Supreme Court case last year that declared his floating home a house, not a vessel. But Fane Lozman is still fighting for compensation for the home, which the city of Riviera Beach intentionally destroyed five years ago.

A Fort Lauderdale federal judge refused in March to give Lozman a single penny of the $25,000 bond posted by the city to pay for Lozman's home in case he won.

Now, Lozman is seeking compensation through a separate civil rights lawsuit he filed in 2008. It claims that Riviera Beach city officials conspired to harass him over his opposition to a private marina project.

A hearing is set for May 19 that will determine whether the case ends or proceeds to trial.



California would become the first state to write into law much of the national mortgage settlement negotiated this year with the nation's top five banks, and expand it to all lenders, under wide-ranging legislation state lawmakers approved Monday.

Majority Democrats sent the homeowner protection package to Gov. Jerry Brown despite opposition from business and lending organizations and most Republican legislators.

The Assembly approved the legislation on a 53-25 vote, and the Senate followed by voting 25-13.

The legislation would require large lenders to provide a single point of contact for homeowners who want to discuss loan modifications. It would prohibit lenders from foreclosing while the lenders consider homeowners' request for alternatives to foreclosure. And it would let California homeowners sue lenders to stop foreclosures or seek monetary damages if the lender violates state law.

Regulators probe bank's role in Facebook IPO

  Real Estate  -   POSTED: 2012/05/23 16:25

Regulators are examining whether Morgan Stanley, the investment bank that shepherded Facebook through its highly publicized stock offering last week, selectively informed clients of an analyst's negative report about the company before the stock started trading.

Rick Ketchum, the head of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the self-policing body for the securities industry, said Tuesday that the question is "a matter of regulatory concern" for his organization and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The top securities regulator for Massachusetts, William Galvin, said he had subpoenaed Morgan Stanley. Galvin said his office is investigating whether Morgan Stanley divulged to only some clients that one of its analysts had cut his revenue estimates for Facebook before the stock hit the market on Friday.

The bank said late Tuesday that it "followed the same procedures for the Facebook offering that it follows for all IPOs," referring to initial public offerings of stock. It said that its procedures complied with regulations.

The questions about the role played by Morgan Stanley, the lead underwriter for the deal, add to the confusion surrounding Facebook's IPO. In the most hotly anticipated stock debut in years, the offering raised $16 billion for the social networking company, valuing it at $104 billion.


Fixed mortgage rates were mostly unchanged this week as credit markets showed little reaction to Washington's impasse over raising the federal government's borrowing limit.

Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year fixed loan ticked up to 4.55 percent from 4.52 percent a week ago. That's slightly above this year's low of 4.49 percent.

The average rate on the 15-year fixed loan was unchanged at 3.66 percent, just above the yearly low of 3.65 percent.

Mortgage rates typically track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. Yields have been stable, even though Congress and the Obama administration are days away from a potential default on the government's debt.

Low mortgage rates and depressed home prices have done little to revive the struggling housing market. Many people simply can't take advantage of the historically low rates because of tighter lending standards and bigger required down payments.


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