A developer lost a $1.5 million lawsuit against a Spokane neighborhood group he claimed had defamed his character and interfered with his business.
John Daniel Clardy accused the Thorpe-Westwood Neighborhood Association of using “personal attacks” to stop the proposed Mission Springs apartment complex in southwest Spokane, according to court documents.
He also claimed the neighborhood group repeatedly contacted several agencies in an effort to block the project.
Spokane County Superior Court Judge George Shields ruled Thursday that Clardy’s claims lacked merit.
The court ruling came as developers try to breathe new life into the controversial, 790-unit project that was derailed last year when building permits expired and federal loan guarantees disappeared.
Clardy worked as a representative for Mission Springs owner and developer Richard Lugli, of Sacramento, Calif.
Clardy refused repeated requests for comment.
Everett Coulter, the neighborhood’s attorney, said the judge found that Thorpe-Westwood residents had “legitimate and justifiable concerns about the project.”
“This lawsuit was not about whether the project was good or bad. This lawsuit was about ‘Did they do something wrong as it pertained to Dan Clardy?”’ Coulter said.
The judge also awarded the neighborhood group attorney’s fees, said Coulter, adding that he didn’t yet know the defense costs.
Thorpe-Westwood residents tried for nearly two years to delay construction of the $45 million Mission Springs project on Thorpe Road just west of U.S. Highway 195.
Neighbors say they never planned to stop the project. They just believed that issues such as traffic, environmental and fire safety concerns hadn’t been adequately addressed by the developers.
“Those old concerns haven’t gone away,” said City Councilwoman Phyllis Holmes, who lives near the proposed project.
Pete Powell, former president of the neighborhood group, said the judge’s ruling should send a message to the city about listening to residents’ concerns.
Coulter argued successfully that state law protects citizens’ rights to raise concerns to their government. “It’s like a First Amendment,” he said.
Mission Springs developers, including Clardy, recently have approached the city about renewing building permits for the project, city officials said.
The city last May revoked all building permits because the developers failed to continue work at the site. Just two months before, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development withdrew $12 million in loan guarantees for the project’s first phase.
Calls to Mission Springs Inc. on Wednesday and Thursday were not returned.
Clardy, who represented himself in the case, asked the court for $1 million for “mental suffering” and $500,000 for business costs, according to court documents.
Clardy was convicted of two federal income tax felonies in California several years ago.