Chapel Ridge developer, opponents prepare for court

03/11/2014 12:00 AM

03/13/2014 8:47 AM

The battle over a proposed new residential development in Platte County is set to continue — this time in court.

Opponents of Chapel Ridge, a 351-lot residential development planned for 143 acres between Missouri 45 and Northwest 76th Street, have appealed the county commission’s decision to approve the project and have asked the circuit court for an injunction to stop construction. The county, on the other hand, has asked for the case to be dismissed.

In the latest petition filed with the circuit court on behalf of 25 plaintiffs, opponents of the development allege that the Chapel Ridge development plans violate the county’s land use plan and also fail to meet the planned residential zoning requirements outlined in county ordinances.

The preliminary plat and rezoning necessary for Chapel Ridge were approved by the county commission in December with a 2-1 vote.

Although three commissioners serve on the body, ultimately the final decision to approve the plan came down to presiding commissioner Jason Brown. Second Commissioner Duane Soper recused himself from the vote due to a conflict of interest, leaving just First District Commissioner Beverlee Roper and Brown to weigh in on the issue.

Roper voted against approval, while Brown supported the plan. As the presiding commissioner, Brown’s vote counted twice due to the tie.

Brown recently announced he would not seek re-election this year so he can spend more time with his family.

The county’s planning and zoning commission had unanimously voted twice earlier not to recommend approval of the plan.

One of the central issues of the debate is whether or not the Chapel Ridge proposal meets the county’s land use plan. County staff have previously stated that they believe the development does meet the land use plan. According to a report from county staff, the land use plan calls for single-family detached homes in the area at densities from one to four houses per acre.

Developer Brian Mertz of PC Homes, LLC said the Chapel Ridge development would have a gross density of 2.45 lots per acre.

But opponents of the project point to areas of the land use plan that call for new developments in the area to be consistent with existing neighborhoods.

“There’s numerous instances in that land use plan ...where the people had voted and the county enacted an ordinance that we have gradual transitions in density from one neighborhood to another,” said Bill Quitmeier, the attorney representing opponents.

The neighborhoods immediately adjoining the proposed development area are zoned either rural or agricultural and, according to Quitmeier, are made up of 80-acre lots.

The petition filed by opponents of the development also alleges that the area does not meet the county’s planned residential zoning definition, which calls for common land to be an essential element of the plan.

“Park land is supposed to be an essential element of the plan. This is just a typical little neighborhood park, swimming pool, subdivision park plan, there’s nothing major or essential about this,” Quitmeier said.

Mertz, however, said the development plans include 27.9 acres of private open space within the development and includes two swimming pools, a clubhouse, three parks, two fishing ponds and over a mile of walking trail. He said he thinks the plans do meet the definition for planned residential.

Mike Keleher, the attorney representing the county, said he typically doesn’t comment on on-going litigation.

“I don’t know that I have any comment other to say that we think the court will determine that the decision of the commission was proper,” he said.

The Missouri Supreme Court recently assigned judge Gerald D. McBeth to the case after all the Platte County judges recused themselves from the case.

Quitmeier says he’s working now to set a date and time to hear the outstanding motions on the case and determine how the case should move forward.

“I think that a court’s going to ultimately overturn this decision and they are going to say that they did not comply with their own ordinance,” he said.

Mertz, however, is looking for another outcome.

“I hope the system is going to look through the items that the opposition has put out there and do what’s right and follow the commission’s approval and pass it along,” he said.

Mertz said despite the legal activity, plans for the development continue to move forward. He hopes to bring designs and layout to the county sometime in the next few weeks and said if all goes well, they could break ground as early as this spring.

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