The The developer of a proposed indoor soccer complex in San Rafael has sued two outspoken critics and left the door open for suing as many as 50 others.

San Rafael Airport LLC, which is owned by Joe Shekou, filed a lawsuit in Marin County Superior Court April 21 against 2 Santa Venetia residents and "Does 1 through 50."

The lawsuit claims the residents own an illegal boat dock that encroach on airport property, and that they trespassed on airport property to take photos of the soccer complex site.

One resident offered blunt criticism of Shekou.

"It seems like an attempt to silence people with views that are different from his," he said. "They're abusing the legal system to violate the First Amendment rights of the entire neighborhood."

Residents who live around the San Rafael Airport have vigorously opposed Shekou's plan to build a $6 million, 86,000-square-foot project on land between the San Rafael Airport and McInnis Park golf course.

A 35-foot-tall building along Gallinas Creek would include two soccer fields, a baseball and gymnastics training compound, a mezzanine with a kitchen, a cafe that sells wine and beer, locker rooms and offices. There would be two outdoor sports fields and two parking lots with almost 300 spaces.

Critic such as these residents have spoken out against the project at public meetings, citing proximity of the site to wetlands, the reduction of views, potential harm to endangered species and an agreement reached years ago they claim prevents major development.

"My understanding is my client reached an agreement with the other property owners," said Neil Moran, a San Rafael lawyer representing San Rafael Airport, LLC.

But one of the resident's attorneys disputes that.

"It's clearly a SLAPP suit designed to retaliate against him," she said, referring to a legal maneuver known as a "strategic lawsuit against public participation."

"The whole purpose of it is to intimidate people and keep them from speaking out" .

The lawsuit's allowance for up to 50 other people has scared neighbors, said a critic who lives on Vendola Drive.

"We don't know who the other 50 are," she said. "Everybody's sweating bullets."

Moran said the lawsuit is not meant to silence the resident for speaking out against the proposed project, but to get rid of their boat docks and prevent him from coming onto airport property. He said it is unlikely that other people would be sued.

"We do not presently have plans to name other defendants," he said.