Fairview Enterprises v. City of Kansas City

Decision Date28 August 2001
Docket NumberWD58947
Citation62 S.W.3d 71
PartiesFairview Enterprises, Inc., and Donald A. Witt, Esq., Respondent v. City of Kansas City, Missouri, Danny R. Stamper, Verena Stamper, W. Danny Stamper, Rhonda Stamper, and Bowen Construction Company, Appellants WD58947 Missouri Court of Appeals Western District 0
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

Appeal From: Circuit Court of Platte County, Hon. Daniel Chadwick

Counsel for Appellant: Lana K. Torczon and Cathy Piman Dean

Counsel for Respondent: Sherwin L. Epstein

Opinion Summary:

Appellants Danny R. Stamper, Verena Stamper, W. Danny Stamper, Rhonda Stamper and Bowen Construction Co. appeal from a declaratory judgment declaring Missouri Zoning Ordinance No. 981321 of the City of Kansas City, which would have allowed Bowen Construction to operate an asphalt plant on a rezoned 8.5-acre lot, null and void. Appellant City of Kansas City also appeals that judgment.

Division Two holds: (1) Respondents Fairview Enterprises, Inc., and Donald A. Witt presented sufficient evidence that the private detriment to their property outweighed any public benefit in allowing the asphalt plant to be relocated and thereby rebutted the presumption that the ordinance was valid. The testimony reflected that the land surrounding the 8.5-acre lot was used for agricultural and light residential purposes and that the smoke, odor, unsightliness and traffic generated by the asphalt plant would negatively impact on the use and value of their properties.

(2) Appellants failed to demonstrate that the issue of whether the public interest outweighed the private detriment was fairly debatable because they failed to establish any discernible relationship between the City Council's decision to allow the relocation of the asphalt plant and the public health, safety, morals or general welfare.

(3) Because the issue of whether the private detriment outweighed the public benefit of allowing the asphalt plant to relocate was not fairly debatable, the court did not err in finding that the City Council's actions were arbitrary and unreasonable and that the ordinance should be deemed null and void.

Joseph M. Ellis, Judge

Appellants Danny R. Stamper, Verena Stamper, W. Danny Stamper, Rhonda Stamper,1 and Bowen Construction Company ("Bowen Construction") appeal from a declaratory judgment entered in the Circuit Court of Platte County declaring Missouri Zoning Ordinance No. 981321 of the City of Kansas City, which would have allowed Bowen Construction to operate an asphalt plant on a rezoned 8.5-acre lot, null and void. Appellant City of Kansas City ("the City") also appeals that judgment.

All of the property relevant to this case falls within the Kansas City International Airport Plan ("KCIA plan"). Property falling within the area covered by that plan is subject to different zoning designations (GP-1 through GP-8) than the rest of the city and approval of site plans is required for construction on property within the KCIA plan.

The Stampers own significant amounts of land northwest of Kansas City International Airport. Some of that land is within the Kansas City limits, and some is not. The Stampers have long leased portions of their land to Hunt Midwest to operate a quarry. Within the quarry, Hunt Midwest utilizes a rock-crusher.

In 1994, the Stampers agreed to allow Bowen Construction to lease a 3.8-acre piece of land just outside the Kansas City limits for the operation of an asphalt plant. The chosen location was next to the Hunt Midwest rock-crusher and the quarry operations near the intersection of Interurban Road and 144th Street.2 The leased property was near the Stampers' home.

After the County refused to rezone the land to allow the operation of the asphalt plant, the Stampers and Bowen Construction petitioned the City to annex the land and to rezone the 3.8 acres to allow for the operation of an asphalt plant. Subsequently, the City annexed the 3.8 acres and designated it as a GP-1 (General Industry) zone and approved the use of the property for an asphalt plant. Bowen Construction then erected an asphalt plant on that site.

Thereafter, the Stampers acquired an additional 255-acre tract of land that had bordered their property on the southwest side. That property was zoned GP-7 (Agricultural and Low Density Residential). The property was bordered to the north by land owned by Respondent Donald Witt. Respondent Fairview Enterprises owned property immediately to the southwest of the Stampers' new land.

In 1998, Hunt Midwest expanded its quarrying operation onto this newly acquired 255-acre tract. In conjunction with that expansion, Hunt Midwest decided to relocate the rock-crusher to the southwest approximately one mile, near the northeast corner of the Stampers' new property and the southeast corner of the Witt property. With Hunt Midwest planning to relocate the rock-crusher, the Stampers agreed to lease Bowen Construction 8.5 acres of land along the northern border of the 255 acres so that Bowen Construction could relocate its asphalt plant to be next to the rock-crusher. This land included a 2,168 foot-long driveway that would be 30 feet wide ending in a 700-foot by 350-foot lot on which the asphalt plant would be located. The entrance to the driveway would be located on N. Winan Road.

On June 12, 1998, Bowen Construction filed a zoning application seeking to rezone the 8.5-acre tract from GP-7 (Agriculture and Low Density Housing) to GP-1 (General Industry) and to be granted permission to operate its asphalt plant on that site. Bowen Construction also filed an application to have the 3.8-acre tract on which the asphalt plant was then situated rezoned from GP-1 back to GP-7.

On July 21, 1998, a planner with the City Planning and Development Department staff, Carrie L. Flack, submitted a report recommending approval of the rezoning requested by Bowen Construction. The matter then went to the City Planning Commission.

At the hearing before the City Planning Commission, Ms. Flack's report was submitted, and Respondents presented evidence in opposition to the proposed rezoning. Following the hearing, the City Planning Commission voted to recommend denial of the rezoning application.

Despite the City Planning Commission's recommendation that the rezoning of the 8.5-acre lot be denied, a member of the City Council shortly thereafter introduced Ordinance No. 981321 ("the Ordinance") which would rezone the property as GP-1 and approve the site plan for the asphalt plant. The Ordinance was then referred to the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee of the City Council. That committee conducted hearings on the proposed Ordinance on December 16 and 21, 1998. Respondents and other neighbors presented evidence in opposition to the proposed rezoning. Thereafter, the committee recommended approval of the ordinance after adding an additional provision requiring Bowen Construction to widen and strengthen N. Winan Road from the driveway south for one mile to the "north access road." On December 29, 1998, the City Council voted to pass the Ordinance.

On February 3, 1998, Respondents filed a petition in the Circuit Court of Platte County requesting declaratory relief. The case was tried to the court on May 24 and 25, 2000.

On July 14, 2000, the trial court entered its judgment declaring the Ordinance null and void. The trial court found that the public welfare was not served by the rezoning of the 8.5-acre plot and that the actions of the City Council in enacting the Ordinance were arbitrary and capricious, unreasonable and not fairly debatable. The court found that the enactment of the Ordinance had no substantial relationship to the public health, safety and welfare of the city or its inhabitants and constituted an improper exercise of police powers by the city council. The court also held that, even if the rezoning of the property to GP-1 had been proper, the operation of an asphalt plant was not a use permitted in a GP-1 district under the statutory language creating GP-1 districts. Appellants bring two points on appeal.

In their first point, Appellants claim the trial court erred in finding that that rezoning of the 8.5-acre plot to GP-1 was unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious. They argue that Respondents failed to present evidence to overcome the presumed validity of the statute. Appellants further contend that under the evidence in the record the reasonableness of the decision to allow the asphalt plant to be relocated was fairly debatable.

"Missouri courts have long held that our state's Zoning Enabling Act, Sections 89.010 through 89.140 RSMo, is the sole source of power and measure of authority for cities, towns and villages in zoning matters." City of Louisiana v. Branham, 969 S.W.2d 332, 336 (Mo. App. E.D. 1998). The Zoning Enabling Act authorizes cities and counties to impose zoning regulations "for the purpose of promoting health, safety, morals, comfort or general welfare." State ex rel. Helujon, Ltd. v. Jefferson County, 964 S.W.2d 531, 540 (Mo. App. E.D. 1998) (citing section 64.850, RSMo 1994).

"Since zoning and refusal to rezone are legislative acts, we review de novo any challenges to their validity, with deference to the trial court's ability to assess the credibility of witnesses." Lenette Realty & Inv. Co. v. City of Chesterfield, 35 S.W.3d 399, 405 (Mo. App. E.D. 2000). In reviewing the Ordinance at issue, we follow the standard of review set forth in Heidrich v. City of Lee's Summit, 916 S.W.2d 242, 248-49 (Mo. App. W.D. 1995):

[T]he exercise of zoning power is a legislative rather than quasi-judicial function. . . . Upon review, this Court may reverse a legislative action "only if arbitrary and unreasonable, meaning that the decision is not 'fairly debatable.'" Summit Ridge Dev. Co. v. Independence, 821 S.W.2d 516, 519 (Mo. App. 1991) (citations omitted). A decision is considered arbitrary and unreasonable if it bears no substantial relationship to the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare. State ex...

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