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!”