Outrage of the Week: Object to Development, Get Sued by Developer

guest blog by Deborah Goonan

Add another shady, abusive tactic to the HOA playbook. When taxpayers show up at the planning commission meeting, and speak out against development of yet another HOA or Condo project, if you’re the Developer, just give your attorney a call. Then threaten a lawsuit.

When a Planning Commission denies a Zoning change, or the two parties cannot agree on a development plan, it is quite common for the Developer and Landowners to file a suit against the government, hoping to arrive at a reversal of the Zoning decision or at least a mutual compromise.

But for developer John O’Flaherty (through law firm Ungaretti & Harris) to sue 22 concerned citizens and activists, who publicly objected to the proposed development plan, is stepping way over the line. Legal experts are calling this maneuver nothing more than a SLAPP suit, (Strategic Law Suit Against Public Participation), aimed at intimidating private citizens – who have no power to make Zoning decisions – from expressing their opinions in accordance with free speech under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Taxpayers and homebuyers are increasingly learning of the risks and pitfalls of covering every empty plot of land with yet another privately governed HOA.  FHA has balked at financing condominium projects for the past several years. That is no secret. Even if you’re not apt to buy a condominium for yourself, as a taxpayer, why should you favor your local government allowing development of another potentially risky mixed-use project? What is the potential long-term tax revenue, weighed against hidden costs and non-tangible social costs of a housing model that is failing all over the state of Illinois and the country?

What’s next? Maybe developer’s attorneys will start to sue news reporters, bloggers, and consumers who tell their Realtor, “Don’t show me any condos, and no HOAs!”

(link to Chicago Tribune story on Park Ridge)

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Ward Lucas is a longtime investigative journalist and television news anchor. He has won more than 70 national and regional awards for Excellence in Journalism, Creative Writing and community involvement. His new book, "Neighbors At War: the Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association," is now available for purchase. In it, he discusses the American homeowners association movement, from its racist origins, to its transformation into a lucrative money machine for the nation's legal industry. From scams to outright violence to foreclosures and neighborhood collapses across the country, the reader will find this book enormously compelling and a necessary read for every homeowner. Knowledge is self-defense. No homeowner contemplating life in an HOA should neglect reading this book. No HOA board officer should overlook this examination of the pitfalls in HOA management. And no lawyer representing either side in an HOA dispute should gloss over what homeowners are saying or believing about the lawsuit industry.

1 thought on “Outrage of the Week: Object to Development, Get Sued by Developer

  1. Cynthia

    Another excellent blog posting by Deborah Goonan. Thank you Deborah, and Ward Lucas, too, for providing it to your readers.
    Slapp lawsuits are exactly what they do to innocent HOA homeowners in Monroe County, Pennsylvania who stumble over criminality, or wrong doing on an HOA board, or even ask a question they have to ask, by law, of the HOA attorney. These lawsuits are willful, fraudulent and created to devastate the innocent homeowner, cost them thousands of dollars in fraudulent legal charges, compromise and destroy their health, families, safety, stability, finances, reputations and drive them from and steal their homes. Some, who were, or possibly are in the courts and some of the HOA attorneys, and some HOA board members and their are accomplices are the most despicable and criminal human beings imaginable. Slapp law suits have been illegal in PA since 1996, but if no one will investigate, report on these atrocities, or prosecute these law breaking thieves, thugs and bullies, what good is the law?


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