ound one in the annexation court battle goes to the City of Platte City.
Platte County Circuit Court Judge Abe Shafer ruled on Friday that the city had met the qualifications for making a good-faith effort in notifying all property owners of record about an annexation public hearing last fall.
Shafer said the city had met the qualifications in notifying plaintiffs Douglas Yeager and Linda Cuquet of 13710 Running Horse Road. The plaintiffs, represented by attorney Bob Shaw, had alleged the city failed to make the proper effort to notify them.
In court testimony given last Monday and Tuesday, the city argued that it made a good faith effort to contact all property owners by obtaining what it believed were updated ownership records from the Platte County Assessor’s office. That database information failed to contain updated ownership records indicating that Yeager and Cuquet had obtained their property on Friday, Sept. 15.
Because an outside company was working in the database to help the county collector’s office prepare tax bills, officials in the assessor’s office were not able to update the database for a period of time from Monday, Sept. 18 to Oct. 19. The transfer recorded on Friday would normally have been updated in the database on Monday, Sept. 18 but because of the moratorium, it was not.
Testimony indicated the county verbally gave the city no indication its records on the provided disc were somehow not up-to-date.
A Missouri Supreme Court decision made in a 1983 case was referenced in Shafer’s ruling. In the City of Town and Country vs. St. Louis County, a landowner asserted that the city “failed to give notice to all residents of (the area) of the Board of Aldermen’s meeting at which annexation was adopted.”
The Missouri Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Supreme Court Judge Andrew Jackson Higgins, formerly a circuit court judge in Platte County, rejected this contention, stating:
“Section 71.015 requires only a good faith effort to notify by certified mail all fee owners in an area to be annexed prior to a hearing on the proposed ordinance. The legislature’s silence on the need for anything more than a good faith effort to reach fee owners by certified mail indicates the legislature’s recognition of the difficulties of individual notice.”
Shafer on Friday wrote: “Even though the method of determining fee owners and the method of notification of fee owners employed by the city of Platte City were not flawless, the Court concludes based upon the evidence that the City of Platte City made a ‘good faith effort to notify all the fee owners of record within the area proposed to be annexed’ as required by Section 71.015.1 (3) RSMo. Shafer ruled that all parties shall bear their own costs for the litigation.
In testimony last week, Cuquet and Yeager told the court the involuntary annexation attempt had caused “stress and chaos” in their lives.
Attorneys for the city pointed out that both Cuquet and Yeager had attended an annexation public hearing in August–a hearing on a previous annexation attempt that targeted the property the couple eventually acquired–and still proceeded to acquire the property.
Shaw declined the chance to discuss the ruling, saying he would not comment on either case until a decision on a second lawsuit against Platte City’s involuntary annexation attempt is handed down.
That decision, from Judge Lee Hull, is expected to be made this week. That case alleges the city board of aldermen violated the Sunshine Law when it discussed boundaries for the involuntary annexation attempt in executive session on Sept. 26.