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Glickert v. The Loop Trolley Transportation Development District

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division

December 19, 2017


          Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County 15SL-CC02471 Honorable Brian H. May


          Mary K. Hoff, Presiding Judge

         Peter Sarandos ("Sarandos") appeals from the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Loop Trolley Transportation District ("District") and the Loop Trolley Company ("Trolley Company") (collectively "Respondents") on Sarandos's action for declaratory judgment and permanent injunction brought to prohibit construction and operation of a trolley-car rail system along Delmar Boulevard, from the Loop in University City to Forest Park in St. Louis ("Project") 535 feet beyond the boundaries of the District. We affirm.

          Factual and Procedural History

         The relevant parties in the current action are as follows: The District is a political subdivision of the State of Missouri created in accordance with the Missouri Transportation Development District Act, Sections 238.200-.275, RSM0 2000[1] ("TDD Act"), that authorizes the creation of transportation development districts to plan, fund, and construct transportation and related infrastructure projects. The Trolley Company is a non-profit corporation that contracts with the District related to the operation of the Project. Sarandos, along with Elsie Beck Glickert ("Glickert") and Jen Rivenes Jensen ("Jensen"), are residents and taxpayers of the City of St. Louis ("St. Louis City") and the City of University City ("University City"), respectively, who filed the underlying action challenging the construction and operation of the Project.[2]

         The District and the Project

         In 2007, pursuant the TDD Act, St. Louis City and University City each passed and approved resolutions calling for the joint establishment of the District, for the purpose of "funding, promoting, planning, designing, constructing, improving, maintaining, and operating" the Project.

         In August 2007, University City filed a petition in the St. Louis County Circuit Court ("Formation Petition") seeking to create a transportation development district under the TDD Act, for the undertaking of the Project and the imposition of a one-percent sales tax ("Sales Tax") in the District.

         The Formation Petition set forth the legal description for the proposed District, including a map illustrating such boundaries as required under the TDD Act and a general description of the Project ("Project Description"), which stated that the "approximate location of the Project improvements will be along Delmar Boulevard between Kingsland Avenue and DeBaliviere Avenue and along DeBaliviere Avenue between Delmar Boulevard and Lindell Boulevard within the boundaries of the District." The Project Description further "anticipated that the Project may also include" various activities and work necessary or convenient for the purpose of funding, promoting, planning, designing, constructing, improving, maintaining, and operating or assisting in the Project, such as the construction of one or more turn-around areas for the rail system, and other improvements located within or adjacent to Delmar Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue.

         Following published notice of the filing of the Formation Petition, the trial court issued its Order dated December 18, 2007 approving a mail-in election and certifying for qualified-voter approval, submitting a single question regarding creation of the proposed District, "for the purpose of funding, promoting, planning, designing, construction, improving, maintaining and operating or assisting in (a) design, construction and installation of improvements along Delmar Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue necessary for a trolley-car system;…(c) construction of one or more turn around areas for vehicular traffic and/or rail system;…(g) all other costs and fees necessary or incidental to the foregoing" and approval of the proposed Sales Tax. The results of the mail-in election were reported as being 38.097 votes in favor of the ballot question and 0.88 votes against, which was an overwhelming majority in favor of the Project. Sarandos, who owns commercial property within the District, cast a ballot against the District.

         In July 2008, following voter approval, the trial court entered its final judgment ("Formation Judgment") in which it established the District as a political subdivision in accordance with the TDD Act and authorized the Sales Tax. In addition, just as in the Formation Petition, the Formation Judgment contained the Project Description in which it provided a "general description" of the Project, an "approximate" location for the Project, as well as gave the District broad authority to "also" construct improvements necessary and convenient for the proposed trolley-car system.

         From August 2008 to March 2016, the District collected approximately $5, 034, 679 in Sales Tax, which generated funds used for planning, design, implementation, and construction of the Project.

         In addition to the funds generated from the Sales Tax, the District also obtained a grant from the Federal Transportation Administration ("FTA") to help finance the Project. On August 23, 2013, the District was granted $22.1 million from the FTA.

         In November 2012, the Trolley Company submitted an application for a conditional use permit to University City to build and operate the trolley project, which was granted on March 11, 2013. It included a proposed route extending in front of the University City Library west of the District boundary at Kingsland Avenue.

         Since 2000, and well before the formation of the District in 2008, plans for the Project have been the subject of considerable public discussion and media attention as well as the subject of discussions at community meetings and in public documents. Throughout the planning process, the general public, community leaders, government agencies, and local neighborhoods have been involved in the Project.

         Since 2008, the District's plans have included Project improvements beyond the District boundaries on both ends of the route. Moreover, as early as 2004, plans for the Project contemplated extension of the system accordingly.

          Specifically, the final plans for the Project included an extension of the trolley-car route 300 feet, beyond the District's boundaries on the eastern end of the line, to provide a connection to Forest Park, and an extension of 235 feet beyond the District's boundaries on the western end of the line, to provide a feasible terminus for the system. The final plans fell within the approximate Project location as defined in the Formation Judgment.

         In January 2015, contractors received notice to proceed with construction of the Project and construction commenced immediately thereafter. As of December 2015, construction in the challenged areas of the Project route had commenced.

         As of April 2016, implementation of the Project was substantially complete: track 85%, maintenance facility 70%, catenary system 85%, first two trolleys 80% and utilities 95%. Construction costs totaled $46.96 million with overall project costs at $50.90 million.[3]

         The ...

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