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Supreme Court sides with city council in development dispute

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled on Dec. 20 that the Creve Coeur City Council had the discretion to reject development of a convenience store even if there was evidence that it had met the city’s standards.

The unanimous decision reverses a St. Louis County circuit judge’s determination that the council had acted arbitrarily in denying a conditional use permit for a proposed QuikTrip station at the intersection of Olive Boulevard and Graeser Road in 2020.

Judge Nancy Watkins McLaughlin had ruled in favor of the owners of the property, BG Olive & Graeser LLC and Forsyth Investments LLC, when they sought review of the city’s decision. Although McLaughlin found that the owners had met the standards set out in the city’s ordinances, the Supreme Court said the code also says the city “reserves full authority to deny any request” for a permit.

“The circuit court should have reviewed the City’s determination based upon the evidence rather than making its own independent decision regarding issuance of the CUP,” Judge George W. Draper III wrote. “In reaching its decision to issue the CUP, the circuit court had to ignore part of the same City ordinance it relied upon.”

City staff, after working with the owners, had recommended the council issue the permit to QuikTrip. However, the council, after hearing from residents who opposed the project, unanimously denied the application without giving a specific reason.

At oral arguments in October, Gerard T. Carmody of Carmody MacDonald, an attorney for the property owners, argued that the city had a ministerial duty to issue the permit once the standards were met and that the denial lacked due process.

But Jim Layton of Tueth Keeney Cooper Mohan & Jackstadt, who argued for the city, said that while Missouri Administrative Procedures Act required the circuit court to develop a factual record, it didn’t allow the court to decide whether the permit should be issued or not.

In an amicus brief, the Missouri Municipal League similarly argued that allowing a judge to make such decisions would encourage cities to make all permit approvals into formal, confrontational hearings, causing delays and increasing costs.

“This case determines that there can be discretion in [cities] granting or denying such use permits,” Layton said. “That will apply to cities across the state.”

The case is BG Olive & Graeser LLC v. City of Creve Coeur, SC99619.

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