City of North Kansas City, Missouri v. K.C. Beaton Holding Company, WD76068 and WD76110 (Mo. Court of Appeals, Western District) January 14, 2014 opinion
The Missouri Court of Appeals upheld a dismissal of an eminent domain action against a Burger King in North Kansas City, Missouri. The City attempted to blight and condemn property using a statute that was not designed for urban redevelopment. Moreover, the owner of the Burger King resisted any condemnation efforts to forcibly turn over his property to the City so that a private developer could take it over.
North Kansas City, a municipality which adjoins Kansas City, Missouri, sought to condemn a Burger King site as part of a redevelopment plan for 57 acres. The Burger King is located in the City’s commercial area along Armour Road and east of Interstate 35. All the property had been acquired by the City but the one acre Burger King site.
To proceed with the redevelopment, the City passed an ordinance to blight the 57 acres. The City believed by declaring the area blighted, it would permit eminent domain to be used. The blighting ordinance was approved June 22, 2010. At the same time, the City acknowledged that the Burger King property was in good condition. But because Burger King was within this city designated redevelopment area, the City held that the Burger King site could be condemned.
The City attempted to attract a developer to build a commercial development on the 57 acre site, but had been unsuccessful. Nevertheless, it proceeded to acquire the entire redevelopment site with the anticipation that eventually a commercial developer would be found.
The City filed a petition to condemn the Burger King site in 2012. The tiral court in Clay County dismissed the City’s petition and the City appealed. A three judge panel on the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, unanimously rejected the City’s condemnation efforts. The Court of Appeals held that the City could not use Statute 88.497 to condemn for the purpose of eliminating blight.
“Courts do not often throw out a government’s efforts to condemn property. That is why this is so special,” stated Robert Denlow, attorney for the owner of the Burger King site. “In this case, the property was in good condition and the City admitted as much. Yet, the City wanted to condemn it claiming it was part of a blighted area.”
“The City did an end-run around the redevelopment statutes by ignoring them,” stated Mr. Denlow. “By avoiding the redevelopment statutes, the City bypassed the procedural safeguards a property owner would have, such as having non-appointed city officials review the city’s plans.”
“In the end,” Mr. Denlow stated, “North Kansas City was trying to forcibly take a successful business site for the eventual purpose of turning it over to a for-profit developer. Burger King creates jobs and pays substantial sales taxes and real estate taxes to the City. Yet, the City attempted to eliminate the Burger King. It just doesn’t make sense.”
For some more information, see the article and Opinion below.