736 S.W.2d 383 (Mo. 1987), 69094, State ex rel. Maryland Heights Fire Protection Dist. v. Campbell

Docket Nº69094.
Citation736 S.W.2d 383
Party NameSTATE ex rel. MARYLAND HEIGHTS FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT, a political subdivision, Relator, v. Honorable Robert L. CAMPBELL, Judge, Circuit Court, St. Louis County, Respondent.
Case DateSeptember 15, 1987
CourtSupreme Court of Missouri

Page 383

736 S.W.2d 383 (Mo. 1987)

STATE ex rel. MARYLAND HEIGHTS FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT, a

political subdivision, Relator,

v.

Honorable Robert L. CAMPBELL, Judge, Circuit Court, St.

Louis County, Respondent.

No. 69094.

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc.

September 15, 1987

Rehearing Denied Oct. 13, 1987.

Page 384

Daniel P. Card, II, Chester A. Love, St. Louis, for relator.

Thomas W. Wehrle, County Counselor, Patricia Redington, Asst. County Counselor, Clayton, for respondent.

HIGGINS, Judge.

The Maryland Heights Fire Protection District seeks to prevent the condemnation of its property by the St. Louis County Director of Highways and Traffic and the St. Louis County Counselor. Relator Fire District contends that Judge Campbell is without jurisdiction to hear the condemnation proceeding because the County cannot take property owned by another political subdivision already devoted to public use. The Court holds under the facts of this case that St. Louis County does have the authority to condemn the property in question and, accordingly, quashes its preliminary order in prohibition.

Relator is a political subdivision located within St. Louis County, created and established pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 321, RSMo. The County's petition in condemnation sought to condemn forty-three parcels of land for the purpose of widening and improving Schuetz Road and Dorsett Road within the county. One of the affected parcels is a 16,183 square foot tract of land owned and used by relator. Of this tract St. Louis County sought to acquire a perpetual right-of-way easement on 1624 square feet (approximately ten percent of the District's land) and a temporary construction and sloping license on 1589 square feet.

Relator filed a motion to dismiss the petition in condemnation contending that the County's authority to condemn was limited to private property and that the County lacked jurisdiction or authority to condemn property already dedicated and held for public use; that the county lacks jurisdiction to condemn public property owned by a political subdivision exercising police powers of the state; and that the county's enabling ordinances are insufficient to permit the acquisition of the land because the ordinance refers only to the condemnation of "private" property. Relator does not

Page 385

contend that the proposed taking would materially impair or interfere with relator's use of this property as a fire protection district.

Judge Campbell indicated his intention to overrule relator's Motion to Dismiss: relator sought a writ of prohibition in the court of appeals to stop the condemnation proceeding; the appellate court denied the writ. Relator subsequently filed its petition before this Court; a preliminary order in prohibition issued. Respondent has filed a Motion to Dismiss the petition in prohibition, and the issues there presented will be resolved by this opinion.

The general rule is that public property held by a political subdivision cannot be acquired by another political subdivision if the proposed use will totally destroy or materially impair or interfere with the former use. Kansas City v. Ashley, 406 S.W.2d 584 (Mo.1966); City of Blue Springs v. Central Development, 684 S.W.2d 44 (Mo.App.1984). The logical corollary of this rule is that if the proposed use does not totally destroy or materially impair or interfere with the existing use, the public property can be acquired by another political subdivision to further serve a public purpose without express authority by the legislature. The cases do not conflict with this statement of law.

In Ashley, this Court refused to permit Kansas City to condemn a railroad right-of-way in order to widen city streets because the taking would have materially impaired the railroad's use of its land in the performance of its...

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