Court motion filed to halt PB city's purchase on Shelby Road

Thursday, November 14, 2019

A motion has been filed in Butler County court to prevent the city of Poplar Bluff from purchasing property on Shelby Road.

Poplar Bluff attorney Robert Smith says in court documents filed Nov. 13 a motion approved by the city council to purchase property for re-sale should be invalidated. (This is not Mayor Robert Smith.)

A third class city is not allowed under state law to purchase property for the primary purpose of re-sale, according to Smith, who has also requested a summary judgement.

A message left Thursday afternoon seeking comment from city officials was not immediately returned. An entry of appearance was filed Thursday by city attorney Mark Richardson.

The council voted 5-2 Nov. 4 to purchase 58 acres of property on Shelby Road for a new police department and other possible uses. The city would pay just over $1 million for the property, which officials have said is valued at almost $4.5 million. Owner First Missouri State Bank is expected to donate the remaining value of the property to the city.

The ordinance approved by council members authorizes the mayor to execute documents related to the purchase of the land “for use as a new police station and other purposes, or re-sale of the real estate.”

City officials have said they need about four acres for a new police department. About 20 acres is located in a floodway, but council members have discussed selling any remaining acreage.

“Defendant does not have authority to move ahead because the purchase of land to re-sale is not a statutory allowable purpose and any act such to do so would be ultra vires,” Smith’s motion reads. “That to allow the City to purchase the real property would cause the citizens irreparable harm; it would cause the city to incur an illegal debt … for which there is no adequate remedy at law.”

Smith asks for a declaratory judgement from the court stating the ordinance is void and determining the right of the city to adopt an ordinance as stated.

He also filed a separate motion to preserve evidence, relating to audio recordings of city council meetings. These recordings are routinely erased and Smith asked that those related to this motion be maintained.

Closing on the property is not expected before February, city manager Mark Massingham has said. Financing has to be secured first, he said.

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