Gasoline fumes settlement kick-starts KC redevelopment project

The Rev. Kevin D. Smith (center) is leading Urban Success Development Inc.’s effort to build affordable housing in the South Roundtop neighborhood of Kansas City.
The Rev. Kevin D. Smith (center) is leading Urban Success Development Inc.’s effort to build affordable housing in the South Roundtop neighborhood of Kansas City.

A South Roundtop neighborhood group in Kansas City announced plans Monday for an affordable housing project funded partly by a settlement over gasoline fumes in the area.

The Rev. Kevin D. Smith of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church said the Resurrection Village project calls for building 24 to 30 single-family affordable homes. The group owns several properties and has options to acquire others near the Inner City Oil gas station at 31st Street and Cleveland Avenue.

The group is called Urban Success Development and previously had been called the South Roundtop Neighborhood Environmental Freedom Project. It took the original name in a dispute over gasoline fumes that residents said came from the gasoline station.

Smith said the group is working with the Environmental Protection Agency. It is seeking a federal environmental assessment of the area and would be able to seek EPA assistance if cleanup is needed. Last week, Urban Success gained backing for technical assistance with the EPA’s Brownfields Program through Kansas State University.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver spoke at the group’s news conference and read part of the letter from the technical assistance program director at Kansas State.

“We have the Environmental Protection Agency deeply involved. They’re irrevocably involved,” Cleaver said.

Urban Success members reached a settlement with the gas station’s owner, Zill LLC. Zill paid $300,000 in the agreement, but the gasoline fumes dispute continues with other residents, landowners and Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster.

Koster had sued Zill LLC seeking to force a cleanup of contamination in the area of the station.

“That suit ... is still very much alive,” Cleaver said. “That suit will go to court, and the attorney general is very positive about the outcome.”

Bryan Mouber, an attorney for Zill LLC, confirmed the settlement with six landowners and 14 others in the South Roundtop neighborhood surrounding the station. He acknowledged that the state’s lawsuit and a dispute with other residents and landowners continue.

Kevin Cheadle, who grew up in the South Roundtop neighborhood, said he continues to seek action. A resident of Columbia, Cheadle said he had to move his 84-year-old mother out of her house because of the contamination in the neighborhood. He said they were offered a settlement but rejected it.

“We’re not looking to gain compensation,” Cheadle said after the news conference. “We’re looking to be restored to our home.”

Urban Success said it is working with Fulson Housing Group to start the Resurrection Village project. Fulson has developed and manages housing properties in Independence, Kansas City and other parts of Missouri.

The redevelopment area is bounded by 31st and 29th streets and Mersington and Cleveland avenues. It has received properties donated by residents and has an option with the Land Bank and Homesteading Authority of Kansas City for 17 parcels.

Urban Success said it has worked with the church, the Kansas City Health Department, the Linwood YMCA, the U.S. EPA, the University of Missouri-Kansas City law school and others to promote neighborhood education and other initiatives.

Mouber issued a statement Friday renewing Zill’s denial that its tanks, lines or dispensers have leaks.

“The manufacturer of Zill’s underground tanks physically entered and inspected the tank and found no leak to the surrounding soil,” the statement said.


Mark Davis: 816-234-4372, @mdkcstar