It turns out local, politically-connected developer Browning Investments isn't above such bully tactics. The Indianapolis Business Journal reports:
The developer of a $30 million apartment-and-retail project in Broad Ripple wants the development’s most vocal opponents to pay nearly $1 million in damages related to construction delays.
Browning Investments Inc. is asking that Good Earth Natural Foods and resident Patrick Skowronek pay the money for appealing the Metropolitan Development Commission’s decision to award Browning zoning variances to proceed with the project.
They lost the appeal in Marion Superior Court in March on a technicality, but are asking the Indiana Court of Appeals to overturn Superior Court Judge Michael D. Keele’s decision to dismiss the appeal.
On Wednesday, representatives of Browning Investments and opponents of the project appeared again before Keele, who admitted that Browning’s request for damages is “unique and different.”
The $1 million Browning Investments wants Good Earth and Skowronek to pay is an estimate of how much project costs could rise due to delays in construction, which might not start for another year depending upon how long the appeal process takes.
Browning Investments is seeking $5.7 million of a $7.7 million city bond used to help finance the project along the Central Canal. The bonds would be paid off over time from property-tax proceeds in the North Midtown tax-increment financing district. The district, created in January 2013, includes the Browning project, which would be called Canal Pointe.While the legal maneuver does not precisely fit the definition of a SLAPP lawsuit, like a SLAPP lawsuit it is an attempt to use the legal process to bully someone. All Good Earth and Skowronek is doing is using the legal process for challenging a zoning board decision. But apparently the folks at Browning Investment believes they have an absolute right to our tax dollars for their private developments and that anyone who dares question that right or challenge it in court will be punished. Make no mistake about it. Bully Browning is attempting to send a message to every taxpayer in Marion County that if you get in the way of the politically-connected developer, you could find yourself in court having to at the very least paying thousands of dollars for your own defense.
There is a way of shutting down Bully Browning. City officials, in particular members of the city county council, can simply declare that they won't approve any future tax subsidies for Browning because of the developer's tactics in bullying members of the public. Problem solved. Do our city officials have the guts to take such a stand for the public against a politically-connected developer? Unfortunately, I'm not convinced they do.
Thursday, December 13, 2012, Cooley Law School Attempts to Silence Critics with SLAPP Defamation Lawsuits
Tuesday, December 7, 2010, St. Francis Hospital SLAPP Lawsuit: Free Speech Wins Round As Hospital's Request for Emergency Injunction to Silence Critic is Denied
Saturday, November 8, 2008, Legislative Recommendation: Time for Indiana General Assembly to Slap Down SLAPP lawsuits