One more obstacle to the proposed Ellisville Walmart is out of the way. An appeals court has sided with the developer after a resident had sued the city for issuing a conditional use permit to for construction of the 155,000 square foot retail store.
Thomas DeBold had sued claimed that city officials had ignored resident's concerns and that the Walmart will negatively impact traffic, overtax utilities and city services. Circuit Court Judge David Lee Vincent had sided with the city, and the appeals court upheld Vincent's ruling.
But it may be too little too late, since the permit expires September 5th and the Ellisville City Council last week declined to extend it.
They also asked for more tax-payer financing, but the Economic Development Commission rejected the plan.
Commission chairman Tom Weis says they were hoping for something more than another shopping center. Weis said they want something "tying in with the great streets concept; trying to build these little pods people can live in, work in, they can shop in."
Tax Increment Financing has been a hot-button issue in the West County suburb, even contributing to the suspension of Mayor Adam Paul, who opposed the Walmart TIF.
Paul says he believes his election was a referendum by Ellisville residents against using tax dollars for such projects. "I believe we started TIF reform in the region," Paul said. "For the developer to come back asking for more tax increment financing and more incentives is preposterous."
Paul won a legal victory at a hearing Monday, forcing the city council to turn over documents detailing communications regarding his impeachment. Paul's attorney says he still expects the council to remove the mayor from office on March 27, saying the votes are already lined up.
Last week, the city council had adopted an 11 page impeachment document that charged Paul with violating the city's charter.
The charges also included swearing and drinking on the job. The council voted Wednesday night to drop those two charges from the impeachment proceedings.
City Attorney Paul Martin says he has evidence that both are true, but has learned that neither is an impeachable offense.
Mayor Paul refutes all of the charges, claiming they all stem from his disagreements with the council over a controversial Walmart TIF.
The City Council voted unanimously Wednesday evening to move forward with a litany of charges against the mayor that include disclosing confidential information and drinking on the job.
Dozens of residents had attended the special council meeting to show support for the Mayor, but it didn't sway the council.
A hearing was scheduled for March 20 to decide whether Paul should be permanently removed from office.
Mayor Paul has been at odds with most of the council over a controversial Walmart TIF since he was elected last April.
The 11 page resolution calling for Paul’s removal was drawn up by City Attorney Paul Martin after the council voted 5-2 for impeachment proceedings. Martin told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the mayor's improprieties began right after he took office last April.
That's also when Paul began officially fighting with most council members over a controversial Walmart TIF. The TIF passed, but is now tied up in court.
The impeachment drive follows an effort by some residents to get council members who'd supported the TIF recalled from office. That effort fell flat when a St. Louis County judge ruled that the city's recall provisions were unconstitutional.
If the council votes to adopt the impeachment resolution at Wednesday night's meeting, Paul would be suspended for 45 days, pending the outcome of an investigation.
The move comes just two days after the Ellisville Charter Enforcement Commission unanimously recommended that the impeachment complaint be thrown out.
Ironically, it's Martin who will present the resolution at the March 6th council meeting.
The specifics of the complaint against the mayor haven't been released, but Martin has clashed frequently with other council members over a controversial Walmart TIF that was passed last year. Martin had been elected last spring after campaigning against the TIF.
The mayor's attorney, Chet Pleban, says the impeachment effort will be met with litigation.
Mayor Paul has been at odds with several City Council members over a Walmart TIF project that he had opposed. Discussion over the TIF has led to several contentious council meetings, including the meeting in which Paul had tried to have a disruptive resident removed.
Last night's commission meeting wasn't without it's own drama. At one point, Mayor Paul's attorney, Lynette Petruska was removed from the meeting for allegedly disruptive behavior.
Still, the three-member commission sided with Paul. But it might not end there. The City Council could still vote to pursue the matter at Wednesday's meeting.