St. Louis, MO (PRWEB) January 15, 2014
On Tuesday the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District upheld the dismissal of eminent domain litigation initiated by North Kansas City against the owner and operator of a Burger King property in North Kansas City, Missouri. Owners' Counsel of America Missouri Member, Robert Denlow of Denlow & Henry in St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri represented property owner K.C. Beaton Holding Company, L.L.C. before both the trial and appellate courts.
“Courts do not often throw out a government’s efforts to condemn property. That is why this is so special,” stated Robert Denlow. “In this case, the property was in good condition and the City admitted as much. Yet, the City wanted to condemn it claiming it was part of a blighted area.”
North Kansas City sought to condemn the Burger King site owned by K.C. Beaton Holding Company, L.L.C. as part of a redevelopment plan for 57 acres. The Burger King property is located in the City’s commercial area along Armour Road, east of Interstate 35. Beaton Holding operates the Burger King as a franchisee under the name Gilbertson Restaurants, L.L.C.
To proceed with the redevelopment, the City commissioned a blight study of the 57 acres. The City confirmed and updated its original July 31, 2008 blight study with a subsequent April 30, 2010 study. While blight factors were not found at the Burger King site, both studies determined that a preponderance of blight existed in the 57 acres and concluded that the entire area was blighted.
Although the City acknowledged that the Burger King property was in good condition, it argued that it had the authority to use eminent domain to condemned the property because it was within the designated redevelopment area. The City offered $850,000 to purchase the Burger King site, which Perry Beaton, the owner rejected. Mr. Beaton wanted to continue running his business. “I have a great location, a successful business, and a well-maintained building. I simply did not want to go.” Mr. Beaton said.
The City filed a petition to condemn the Burger King site on March 12, 2012. Following a hearing before the trial judge, the circuit court dismissed the City’s petition to condemn the property on January 23, 2013. The City appealed and, yesterday, a three judge panel unanimously upheld the trial court's dismissal rejecting the City’s condemnation efforts.
In City of North Kansas City, Missouri v. K.C. Beaton Holding Company, WD76068 and WD76110 (Mo. Court of Appeals, Western District), the court focused on whether the City under Statute 88.497 had the right to condemn for the purposes of eliminating blight. Chief Judge James Edward Welsh authored the opinion holding that "[t]he City does not have the authority to condemn the Burger King property under section 88.497 for the purpose of eliminating blight." (January 14, 2014 Opinion, p. 10).
Welsh wrote: "The circuit court ruled that, although the City complied with the requirements for blighting the property, the City did not have the authority to condemn the Burger King property under section 88.497 for the 'public purpose' of eliminating blight." (Opinion, pg. 6) He continued: "We find nothing within section 88.497 which expressly gives third class cities the power of eminent domain to eliminate blight, nor do we find anything within section 88.497 which necessarily implies that third class cities have such power. A third class city's general authority to condemn under section 88.497 'for any other necessary public purposes' is not sufficient to condemn for blight without a manifested intent by the legislature stating in express terms or by necessary implication that third class cities have such authority." (Opinion pg. 9)
“The City did an end-run around the redevelopment statutes by ignoring them,” said Mr. Denlow. “By avoiding the redevelopment statutes, the City bypassed the procedural safeguards a property owner would have, such as having non-appointed city officials review the city’s plans.”
“In the end,” Mr. Denlow stated, “North Kansas City was trying to forcibly take a successful business site for the eventual purpose of turning it over to a for-profit developer. Burger King creates jobs and pays substantial sales taxes and real estate taxes to the City. Yet, the City attempted to eliminate the Burger King. It just doesn’t make sense.”