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Red Canyon lawsuits tossed out


In this case, three regular women and a man went up against the big guy and won.

Two district court judges have thrown out separate lawsuits -- termed SLAPP suits designed to stifle free speech -- against Anna Weiland, Kim McBride and their neighbors Ann and Ron Heck that were filed by a Fremont County quarry operator.

On Feb. 24, the Independent detailed the lawsuits, filed by the owners and operators of the Red Canyon Quarry. The families supplies road base to the Pikes Peak region's five military bases, including Fort Carson, the Air Force Academy and Peterson Air Force base.

The quarry, 17 miles south of Colorado Springs off Highway 115, stands accused of encroaching on threatened Mexican Spotted Owl habitat.

Last year the quarry's operators filed separate lawsuits against the Hecks, and Weiland and McBride, who live downstream from Red Mountain Quarry and had complained to government agencies that the operation was operating illegally before and after the approved times of operation and that it was negatively impacting their properties. The quarry claimed that the Heck's, and Weiland and McBride's complaints were a "sham" and interfering with their business opertions.

On July 13, Fremont County District Court Judge Julie Marshall dismissed all but one of the complaints against Weiland and McBride, citing their First Amendment rights to seek redress by filing complaints with the government agencies that have regulatory power over the quarry. The judge did not offer a ruling on a separate issue in which Weiland and McBride have been accused of interfering with the quarry's operations.

Also in July, another Fremont County District Judge John Anderson dismissed a lawsuit that had been filed against the Hecks.

Now, Weiland and McBride, who have spent more than $20,000 in legal fees defending themselves over the past year, are considering SLAPPing back with a lawsuit against the quarry in an effort to recover their financial losses and set a legal precedent.

Many states have adopted laws that curb or prohibit deep-pocket companies from attempting to stifle citizens from redressing government agencies with their concerns. Some court cases -- including one in California -- have awarded multi-million dollar settlements in SLAPP-back settlement awards. But so far, there have been no similar cases in Colorado.

"It would be great to recover our lawyers fees, but also it would hopefully set a precedent in the state of Colorado, through the court system, that will punish large companies for malicious prosecution," Weiland said.

The Parkside at Mountain Shadows covenents drama continues, with accusations that a "vindictive" homeowners' association has targeted Renee and Tom Henning's newly-painted pale lime-green house for offense.

On Aug. 17, the Indy detailed Susan McConnell's continuing battle over the right to keep a portable basketball hoop in her driveway.

The Hennings now report that the color of their house is the latest neighborhood wanna-be lawsuit.

The couple, who moved into their covenants-controlled northwest Colorado Springs neighborhood in March, decided to paint their brown with mustard-yellow trim house a pale lime green with teal trim. The house hadn't been painted in more than a decade, and the Hennings spent $4,380 to scrape and grout and paint their house a sea-foam color that Renee Henning said reminds her of the ocean and the West Coast, from where she and her husband relocated.

The neighborhood covenants does not specify any particular colors that are deemed acceptable, just that homes should be either pastel or neutral, Henning said. Their painter, who said he had previously served on the architectural review committee that reviews color schemes, assured them their choice was fine, she said. And, several other houses in the neighborhood are painted even more brightly, she said.

But the Hennings made a mistake. They did not submit their request to the architectural control committee beforehand. And after their home was painted, they got a letter saying their color choice was unacceptable.

"There's no reasoning, no willingness to compromise; there are houses in the neighborhood that are a lot brighter than ours, but we just got singled out," Henning said. "It's gotten to the point where it's nothing more than childish vindictiveness.

"It's like living in Red China."

The Hennings have offered to repaint the trim of their home, which turned out to be more turquoise than teal -- and which they don't like either -- changing it to white. But the homeowners' association has rejected their offer, and also told them that their expensive new garage door, which has glass windows, is unacceptable and must go.

"My husband is livid about this," Henning said. "He looked through the covenants book -- they treat it like the Bible -- and there is nothing about garage doors in there, nothing."

Susan Sills, the property manager who oversees the neighborhood association, has previously maintained that home buyers are responsible for adhering to the neighborhood covenants when they purchase their properties.

But the Hennings are now considering hiring a lawyer.

"We moved into a homeowners association thing because we hate to do yardwork and remove snow, and that's why we pay our fees -- not so they can turn around and sue us with our money," Renee Hennings said.

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