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2003-05-17
San Antonio, TX. Developer Sues Citizens Group for $25 Million in Libel case.

When developers file frivolous lawsuits against local citizens, its called a SLAPP suit: Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation. In other words, it's a way for developers to try to limit First Amendment rights to petition the government by scaring citizens from objecting to a project. According to the San Antonio Express-News, this week's dope SLAPP goes to Texas developer Hill-Granados, who filed a $25 million lawsuit against a group called the Citizen's Tree Coalition. The developer charges that the citizens group made libelous statements about the developer's efforts to get a waiver from tree preservation requirements. The citizen Coalition charged that the developer asked for a waiver to bulldoze all of the trees at the Wal-Mart site. The SLAPP suit asks the courts to prevent the Tree Coalition from making any more "libelous and slanderous statements regarding plaintiffs." Three days before the lawsuit was filed, the San Antonio League of Women Voters filed a Freedom of Information request concerning the Wal-Mart project, requesting that city officials reveal if a waiver from the tree preservation ordinance was requested or approved. City officials did not indicate to the newspaper if a waiver had been requested or granted. The Coalition says the developer is resorting to a law suit to keep some residents from joining or supporting the tree coalition. Ironically, the Wal-Mart, which is already under construction, is not subject to a new tree ordinance that the city passed in early May. The new tree ordinance requires that at least 10 percent of trees on a site be kept in place, but no protection is provided for the "heritage trees", which are the city's largest and oldest trees. The developer claims the citizen's group is trying to hinder the Wal-Mart project, but the Tree Coalition says it is interested only in preserving trees, and does not have the power to do anything about the Wal-Mart at this point.

What you can do: In some states, people bringing a SLAPP suit have to demonstrate to the court that their claim is not frivolous. In this case, such a showing might find the developer literally up a tree. For more information about SLAPP suits, contact info@sprawl-busters.com, and see our Reading List page.










 
 
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