Monday, September 23, 2019

Gold Hill Mesa hires law firm to "investigate potential claims" against Gazette

Posted By on Mon, Sep 23, 2019 at 3:46 PM

click to enlarge Gold Hill Mesa - JOHN OLSON
  • John Olson
  • Gold Hill Mesa
UPDATE:

Gold Hill Mesa issued this statement Sept. 24:
—————————ORIGINAL POST 3:46 P.M. MONDAY, SEPT. 23, 2019————————

The Gazette apparently isn't commenting on a move by Gold Hill Mesa to get legal advice about possible litigation regarding its recent two-part series about the west side subdivision sitting atop shifting soils. We asked Editor Vince Bzdek to comment on the announcement and haven't heard back. We'll update if we hear something.

Gold Hill Mesa has hired a law firm to "investigate potential claims against the Gazette arising out of its recent reporting that places Gold Hill Mesa in a false light."

The newspaper's first installment, published Aug. 25, said:
Despite learning more than three years ago that perhaps dozens of homes in Gold Hill Mesa were slowly sinking, heaving and flooding, city planners and regional building staff allowed development to continue uninterrupted, a Gazette investigation has found.

Those red flags — raised in February 2016 — echo warnings that date back decades from experts, engineers and some city staff. From the outset, Gold Hill Mesa raised concerns that it was built on top of a century-old mine tailings pile and would require special attention.

Many thought then — and still believe — that those concerns were mitigated and the land was safe for development. But fresh questions have now been raised by geologists about past studies of the site, highlighting still-unknown details surrounding the ground underneath the development.

The second part was published Sept. 22 and reported that satellite images support the claim that homes are sinking:
Portions of Gold Hill Mesa sank more than 3 inches over a six-year period, state geologists reported to Colorado Springs planners this April.

That land movement, tracked by stacking more than 150 satellite images captured during that time, is enough to crack homes and buildings atop the century-old mine tailings pile, wrote Jonathan Lovekin, a senior engineering geologist at the Colorado Geological Survey in a report to city staff.

Some residents have been critical or skeptical of the stories.

Jessie Sanders, who is soon to move there, wrote in a letter to the editor to the Independent that while the daily newspaper reported homes have sunk by three inches, "you don’t see evidence of this walking around the community, or talking to the current residents AND the ground surveys, a method that has been used for decades show very little movement."

Oddly, no property owners in the Gold Hill Mesa area have thus far sought to have the values of their homes modified due to soils subsidence, said El Paso County Assessor Steve Schleiker. He tells the Indy via email:
To date, no property owners in the Gold Hill Mesa subdivision have appealed their property values based on soils subsidence.

I will be monitoring the sales within the Gold Hill Mesa subdivision to determine if there is any stigma or diminution in value. I am currently doing the same in many of our neighborhoods, such as the landslides in Skyway and Broadmoor Bluffs. The properties located near the wind turbines and/or above ground transmission lines, and also in Black Forest for the parcels that still have burnt trees that have yet to be removed and rebuilt on.
In a news release, Reilly Pozner LLP, a Denver trial firm, noted the Aug. 25 article "contained false and misleading information which was harmful to the GHM development and homeowners in the neighborhood."

GHM pointed out errors to the paper, the release said, but there have been no corrections made.

For example, from the release:
• The Gazette reported the building phase at GHM had been halted, when it has not. The build out of the remaining property available for residential development at Gold Hill Mesa continues....

• The Gazette also reported that 24 homes in the neighborhood were being impacted by issues such as sinking, heaving and flooding. The 24 homes discussed in the 2016 Regional Building meeting relied on by the Gazette were not located within GHM. Further, GHM believes the Gazette ignored multiple sources that would have contradicted its reporting and instead relied upon biased sources and disregarded contradictory information and witnesses. GHM representatives voluntarily met with the reporter and provided information prior to the article being printed. GHM does not believe that the information provided was fairly considered or reflected in the article.

"We respect and fully participate in media efforts to report facts and truth about Gold Hill Mesa. Both the article itself and the approach the Gazette has taken to presenting facts about this community have caused us to lose confidence in the Gazette's editorial process. We believe the reporting lacked balance and demonstrated a reckless disregard of important facts about the Gold Hill Mesa development and neighborhood," says Stephanie Edwards, vice president and developer representative for Gold Hill Mesa.

Reilly Pozner law firm has been trial counsel to the Denver Broncos for almost 20 years and successfully pursued a complex defamation case involving multiple constitutional issues against a Denver newspaper before a jury, the release said.

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