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.


  1. I apologize for having no germane comment, but: this might be the best post title in blogging history.

  2. Now we have it:
    NEW URBANISM = FORECLOSURE. Look around & smell all that... inventory...platted subdivisions w/ empty roads to nowhere.
    Couldn't help but notice Jeremy Pate's statement in the paper last week, in another context, that the City has no authority regarding whether something gets built--re-zoning only.
    And make no mistake folks: re-zoning, in a bubble economy, is the same thing as printing money.
    Maybe someday we will have a City Gov. that engages speculators, ahem, a little more actively. In other words not to leave all development decisions to the other wings of the growth machine: banks & developers. (CON anyone?
    I also have it on good authority that van veen etal. were looking to buy a local liquor store last year. Neither here nor there, but puzzling to those of us who are not as, er, financially sophisticated.
    Any ideas on how that Florida lawsuit is progressing?

  3. .

    Fortunately wise ivestors and their ever wiser insiders like Dick Cheney saw the bust coming and switched to AuH20 in plenty of time to catch the upswing market. Foreign currencies were good too.

    Oh ye of little faith...

    Without much looking you could find this scenario of failed developments, crooked officials and fixed judges all across this, the greatest nation on the planet. Nay, IN THE UNIVERSE.

    $969 oz this morning.


  4. New Urbanism is a tricky thing. I for one don't think the gentrification and whitewashing of Fayetteville is a positive thing, lest we become something like Har Ber Meadows. *shudder*

    I mean, look at those cookie-cutter condos disguised as houses near the Fayetteville Athletic Club. Do we really want a whole village of those things?

    It's just another overpriced housing district for the nouveau riche of Fayetteville—McMansions rebranded as New Urbanist living are still McMansions—all gone the way of the Barber Building. Good riddance, I say.

  5. As I recall, it was Brenda Thiel who nixed the affordable units in the Ruskin Heights development on the grounds that since a single-family neighborhood surrounded the property, "like must be against like."

    What a crock of sheeeit.

  6. In case no one noticed, another notable develoment is thr bankruptcy of Barber developments (no pun intended)

  7. Jonah said: "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."

    Yeah, what gives? Below is the law regarding the filing of a motion to dismiss. Thirty days passed a long, long time ago.

    State of Arkansas
    Arkansas Code Title 16, Chapter 63
    Subchapter 5. Citizen Participation in Government Act


    16-63-507. Procedure.

    (a)(1) All discovery and any pending hearings or motions in an action for a claim governed by Section 16-63-505 shall be stayed upon the filing of a motion to dismiss or a motion to strike under Section 16-63-506.

    (a)(2) A hearing on a motion filed under Section 16-63-506 shall be conducted not more than thirty (30) days after service unless emergency matters before the court require a later hearing.

    (b) The court, upon motion and for good cause shown, may order that specified discovery or other hearings or motions be conducted notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this section.

  8. RE (no pun intended):

    One should always intend puns.

  9. From: "Dirk W. Van Veen" []
    To: Coody, Dan
    Date: 5/11/2008 9:40:06 PM
    Subject: Get together

    Have wine—how does your Wednesday evening look? I’m figuring one bottle per person… after all it’s a school night. I’d like to bring Morgan and Ward if that works for you and Debra.


  10. Don Connor may be the only truly honorable person to have sought public office in our fair city.

    You'd think his lawyers might refrain for once from playing their legal game of feeding off peoples' misfortunes and represent him pro bono or at a greatly reduced fee.

    We can only hope that if and when Connor wins his potential anti-SLAPP settlement, the Ruskin mobsters get to pay every bit of his legal bills plus some. We'll never know of course.

  11. Conner crossed a line with the comment he's being sued for. No one is mad at him for sharing his opinion, he's being sued for misrepresenting the facts.

  12. Give it up Anon 1:35.
    A difference between Civil & Criminal fraud? Who knew?
    The Law is for little people. The tragedy is that the developers can still afford to do this kind of crap. Justice is for those who can afford it.
    It is clear that some pissed off people invested a bunch of money with VV etal and things went south (no pun intended).
    Van Veen etal have besmirched themselves just fine without Mr. Conner's help.
    Filing the lawsuit will have the intended the result of all SLAPP actions: makeing folks think twice or thrice about opening their mouths.
    This is, of course, in the 'nice' F'ville context where everyone is too busy ferrying their kids to soccer to care about anything beyond their own backyard already.
    The public interest would have been best served by tossing this thing out immediately. The fact that this has not happened says everything one needs to know about local power-mongering.

  13. "Residents new to Fayetteville won’t comprehend why this failed development in particular qualifies as something beyond mere disappointment - and, rather, a potentially major strike against former Mayor Dan Coody’s legacy. Mind you, Ruskin Height’s failure to evolve isn’t Coody’s fault - heck, his administration led the charge to develop the community vision represented by City Plan 2025. But this specific project was closely identified with his administration; if Ruskin Heights fails to launch, it will no doubt be a disappointing outcome and a huge shame for those who led the city’s efforts." -- Northwest Arkansas Times editorial

  14. Coody's legacy is one of praising proposed projects by developers who were also his political campaign backers, but none of them ever seemed to pan out beyond the media hype and the cost to the city taxpayers - much like Dan Coody and their investment in his reelection.

    Look at the record:

    Rennaisance Marriott TIF (Nock)
    SouthPass (Nock and Broyles)
    Aspen Ridge (Broyles)
    Ruskin Heights (Van Veen)