Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Bank Pulls Dirk Van Veen's PUD
Let me say right off that I have always supported the Ruskin Heights plan and its "new urbanism" infill design, and I really hope that the eventual outcome will work out better for this Planned Unit Development (PUD) than the morphing of the Aspen Ridge into Hill Place student apartments. That said, I feel little sadness at the news that Metropolitan National Bank filed a foreclosure action against Ruskin Heights, Dirk Van Veen, and several other investors, seeking judgment for past due principal and interest of more than $8.7 million. The Springdale News says the developers did not return calls, and calls to the Ruskin Heights' sales office were "unsuccessful."
As the Northwest Arkansas Times noted, former Mayor Dan Coody touted the project as just what he was looking for, much as he bragged on Aspen Ridge for campaign supporter Hank Broyles as the silver bullet to save south Fayetteville, and he pushed it forcefully through the city's planning department. That earned him the support of developer Dirk Van Veen, who was one of the largest single contributors to the unsuccessful Coody reelection campaign, giving Dan checks and printing hundreds of campaign signs for free.
After the losing campaign and mired in a failing real estate deal, Dirk Van Veen and two of his deadbeat partners filed a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, charging that Don Conner, a neighborhood opponent of the development, had defamed the developers in a speech to the City Council. Such lawsuits should be immediately dismissed under the new Arkansas SLAPP statute, but it is assigned to Republican Judge Mark Lindsey who has allowed the developers to run up Conner's attorney's fees and legal expenses defending himself. That financial drain is why more people don't have the courage to speak their mind about public policy issues.
So, for those reasons, I am once again convinced that what goes around comes around. I am not sorry that it did.