Appeals court dismisses lawsuit against streetcars

By Joe Lambe

The state appeals court in Kansas City today upheld  the dismissal of a lawsuit by two Downtown property owners that challenges the creation of the streetcar system.

The ruling by a three-judge panel upholds Jackson County Circuit Judge Peggy Stevens McGraw, who dismissed the lawsuit for the same reason.

Both rulings hold that the issues raised to challenge the streetcar system were addressed last year and ruled against by Jackson County Circuit Judge Charles Atwell. His April ruling cleared the way for the vote on the transportation district and was not appealed.

Sue Anne Burke and Jeffrey Rumaner filed their lawsuit this year after voters approved the transportation district.

The appeals court ruling today states that it agrees with McGraw: “We also conclude that the Appellants could have, and should have, raised their claims in the Formation Lawsuit.”

Mayor Sly James said, “City voters and three different courts have spoken: the streetcar line is a go. Now is the time for everyone to get onboard.”

He noted that consultants and residents are starting planning for a second phase of the project to take the line into other areas of the city.

Douglas Stone, attorney for the Downtown  Streetcar Transportation Development District, said: “The court recognized that public projects require finality and in this case, where there is specific proceeding to determine the legality of the project and its financing early in the process, before public dollars are spent on elections, planning and design, that window was closed in April (2012).”

Mark Bredemeier, attorney for the property owners, said they would study the ruling and consider appealing to all members of the appeals court or to the Missouri Supreme Court.

The appeal has delayed the sale of bonds for the project and has hurt the city’s chance for a $10 million to $20 million federal transportation grant, city officials say.

Mayor James said at a recent meeting that he believes the city still has a chance at the grant, but the lingering lawsuit has been a problem.

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