Court Hurdles Continue for NorthSide Project
A not-yet-approved $8.1 billion development of the city of Saint Louis’ north side is already facing legal action. Critics of the development have been very vocal regarding their concerns about blighting, the use of eminent domain, and whether the project has any financial backers. The development company, NorthSide Regeneration LLC, has asked the city for $390.6 million in tax increment financing (TIF).
On Oct. 8, some of those concerns were put into writing and submitted as a lawsuit filed on the behalf of a north side resident, Bonzella Smith. The attorney behind the case, D.B. Amon, is a known critic of the development project put forward by Paul Mckee, and of the development company.
The lawsuit, available here, includes a litany of claims. Of the largest, it alleges that NorthSide doesn’t have evidence of financial backing for the project, that the Saint Louis TIF Commission didn’t properly investigate the proposal before recommending it unanimously to the city’s Board of Aldermen, and that blighting will reduce property values, if not eventually leading to the use of eminent domain. The lawsuit’s wide range of allegations impact aldermen, the TIF commission, the mayor, and the development company. Aldermen Marlene Davis and April Ford-Griffin, who represent wards that lie mostly within the bounds of the proposed development’s 1,100-acre footprint, have claimed repeatedly that blighting has no negative consequence, and that eminent domain will not be used.
At a short Thursday hearing, 22nd circuit court judge Robert Dierker ruled that he has jurisdiction to hear the case. Dierker, known for writing the book The Tyranny of Tolerance, joked during the hearing about a recent Supreme Court verdict. “For all practical purposes, there is no substantial limitation to the jurisdiction of this court.” He also made another wry off-the-cuff remark about how agencies and commissions are created in order to take on roles not allocated to government within the Constitution.
The development company’s lawyer, Paul Puricelli, has already filed a motion to dismiss the case, on the grounds that the development has yet to be approved.
“Why are we worrying about this now?” he asked during the hearing. The case could be pursued, he said, if the Board of Aldermen voted to approve the development.
Regardless of its merits, Puricelli’s point may soon be moot. On Friday, the Board of Aldermen will meet and is scheduled to perfect two board bills that would approve the redevelopment and the first half of TIF monies for the project. If the development continues to move quickly through city government, it could be approved as early as Nov. 6.
The next hearing for the north side suit has not yet been scheduled. In the next 25 days, Amon must file a response to Puricelli’s motion for dismissal. If Dierker does not dismiss the case, another hearing will be scheduled.