HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — The developer behind the proposed Lagoona Bay project in Huntersville filed a lawsuit against two town residents, alleging they made "slanderous lies" about him online.
Hundreds of Huntersville residents packed into a gym in April and heard from Jake Palillo, the developer of the Lagoona Bay project that would transform an empty plot of land on Sam Furr Road into an almost 300-acre community with membership fees.
The project includes a 41-acre commercial lagoon area with water sports, dining and retail, a luxury hotel, a convention center, and hundreds of housing options.
Palillo said the development would increase property values for the area and said it would be something that would positively impact Huntersville residents in a positive way when and if they choose to sell their homes.
The project is estimated to cost around $800 million and Palillo said it would invest $16 million into the local economy each year.
It received pushback from residents and more developments have surfaced since the April 26 meeting, including Palillo filing suit against two people who are against Lagoona Bay.
WCNC Charlotte sat down with Noelle Burton and Violet Clarke, two residents who have voiced concerns about the development. They are being sued by Palillo.
“It’s because he claims we slandered him on social media which is a complete untruth in my opinion," Burton said.
Burton and Clarke admitted that they pushed back against the development online and voiced concerns about traffic congestion.
“I am not going to stop, I am not going to back down," Clarke said. "I am going to speak my truth."
WCNC Charlotte spoke with Palillo multiple times over the phone and asked him about the lawsuit. He released the following statement about the suit:
"I don't like suing people. You can speak out against the project, you have the right to. I'm suing because of the slanderous lies that are being told about me and my family."
Burton said she admitted she posted about Palillo.
“I called him greedy and he doesn’t care what happens to us," Burton said.
WCNC Charlotte also collected posts from different social media platforms written by Palillo.
"These are just comments of him talking bad about me online," Burton said.
In one example, Palillo commented on Burton's mental health. Burton called this slanderous. WCNC Charlotte talked to Palillo, again, and he said it came after a thread of him and his family being attacked online.
Palillo presented the Lagoona Bay proposal to the town of Huntersville at Monday night's town hall meeting. About 30 people signed up to speak on the project during its public hearing portion.
"This development would destroy the country feel of our community," one woman said on the podium.
While most people who spoke Monday night strongly opposed the project, there were a handful of people that welcomed the development and boost to the local economy.
"I can't sit here and listen to all the negativity without letting you guys know that a lot of times when people are for something they’re not as noisy," Davidson resident Missy Maylott said to the town board.
One of the biggest concerns shared multiple times was the traffic Lagoona Bay would bring to the area.
"We’re from Florida, we moved up here 30 years ago to get away from this," Shannon Harris told WCNC Charlotte while comparing the project to Disney World.
Palillo's response to traffic concerns was that it's a part of life.
"Traffic is a part of life so you have to take that into account and be positive about it," Palillo said to WCNC Charlotte.
The developer added the Huntersville area is rapidly growing and needs more places for dining and entertainment. However, town planning staff are recommending denial of the application after finding more than 60 issues with it.
The town's planning board is set to vote on the project on June 27.