Denver Direct: Slander?

Sunday, November 16, 2008


In some circles, being known as a “developer” is worse than being a sex offender. Try to build a new structure (allowed by the zoning code) and the neighborhood goes into high-gear to “protect” itself from any change. You may recall my reaction (Overlay Express) when 20% of my neighborhood forced an “overlay” on our R-3 and R-4 properties to prevent building anything over 35-feet high. In my opinion, overlays are an illegal taking of property rights – an end-run around existing zoning laws.

And even worse is ad-hoc down-zoning, in this case changing an R-2 area into an R-1, drastically changes what you can build on your own property. Anyone buying a property with plans to build will be thwarted if the neighbors don’t like your project and submit a down-zoning application, or as in this case, get their Councilperson to go for a “legislative” application. As Councilman Brown said “this is happening all over the City.”

But when a Councilperson defames the reputation of a developer at a public meeting with unfounded accusations of “incompetence, and dangerousness” and rumors of “fraud and forgery”, a line may have been crossed. Is this then “slander”?

From Wikipedia

“Slander refers to a malicious, false, and defamatory spoken statement or report… Most jurisdictions allow legal actions, civil and/or criminal, to deter various kinds of defamation and retaliate against groundless criticism. Related to defamation is public disclosure of private facts which arises where one person reveals information which is not of public concern, and the release of which would offend a reasonable person.

Slander per se
The four (4) categories of slander per se are (i) accusing someone of a crime; (ii) alleging that someone has a foul or loathsome disease; (iii) adversely reflecting on a person’s fitness to conduct his business or trade; and (iv) imputing serious sexual misconduct (especially the chastity of a woman). Once again, all you would have to prove is that someone had published the statement to a third party. No proof of special damages is required.”

Madison’s Statement
“As you mentioned this date of September 8th, and that was very early in my relationship with Mr. Greg Thomas, and after I, you know, because he had worked with me, not really with the neighbors, he had worked with me, to try to get this, ah, his 9 units in place, um, I felt like that that would be the thing to do, but then, as I found out more and more about this man, I realized that he was not just, you know, rude, but incompetent and dangerous…I’m not going to go on and on about Greg, but I also got calls saying he’d been, was under investigation for fraud and forgery, um, you know, um, that’s just sorta how it went…and I kinda decided that this gentleman should not only not build 22 units, should not build 9 units, but probably should not build a dog house in Park Hill. And so I changed my mind.”

Oh my, the Queen has changed her mind.

Project allowed despite rezoning
By Christopher N. Osher
The Denver Post
Article Last Updated: 11/04/2008 02:23:49 AM MST

The Denver City Council approved a contentious rezoning late Monday, but it also crafted a compromise that will allow a property owner to go forward with a multiunit housing project despite the change.

The council debated the topic until well after 11 p.m. An 11 to 2 majority, led by Councilwoman Carla Madison, finally supported the rezoning for a portion of Park Hill.

An amendment to the rezoning had passed earlier in the night on a 9 to 4 vote. That amendment allows property owner Chad Anderson to proceed with a controversial development for nine townhomes.

The wider rezoning would prevent similar multiunit development in the 21.5 acres bordered by East 16th Avenue, Batavia Place, Albion Street and Dahlia Street. It would change the zoning from R2, a category which allows duplexes and multiplexes, to an R1 zoning category, which places more restrictions on density and limits new development to single-family residences.

Anderson pleaded with the council to allow his project to go forward, saying he had invested more than $1 million and faced bankruptcy if his plans were denied. He said he had bought out an earlier partner, developer Greg Thomas, who had angered residents by pushing a bigger plan for 40 three-story townhomes.

Rezoning debates have been among the most controversial subjects for the council to tackle, and this one proved no less volatile. Tensions were high throughout the night, with both sides saying their property rights were at stake. Most neighborhood residents favored limiting development to single-family homes.

Rezoning opponent Meredith Carson told the council that a developer had planned to buy her lot with a small bungalow. The rezoning proposal scared that developer away, she said, and her property is now worth $150,000 less.

Update: Meredith Carson wrote a letter to the Rocky Mountain News. The Denver Post provides a good summary article.