Streetcar district asks for lawsuit to be dismissed

Kansas City streetcar representatives say last week’s lawsuit against the new taxes for the project is “meritless” but could still pose a harmful delay.

Lawyers for the streetcar district filed a motion Friday, urging the Jackson County Circuit Court to hold a hearing quickly and dismiss the lawsuit that challenges new sales taxes and property taxes to help pay for the streetcar.

Every day the legal cloud lingers hinders the project, the motion warns.

Two downtown property owners filed suit to halt collection of the new taxes for the $100 million streetcar project, saying they constituted “taxation without representation” and illegal “stacking” of two different transportation taxes.

Streetcar district lawyers said a Jackson County judge in 2012 addressed the substantive issues concerning the streetcar elections and found that the mechanism for setting up the transportation development district and proposed funding methods was legal.

The plaintiffs’ failure to challenge last year’s elections in a timely way bars the lawsuit, according to the motion.

But the plaintiffs filed a response late Friday opposing the district’s argument. They said their case is not an election contest challenge and involves important questions on the legality of the sales tax and property special assessments.

Streetcar district lawyers said the challenge needs to be resolved quickly. They argue the lawsuit’s timing, coming just before a planned $30 million bond issue this spring to start construction, “will cause substantial financial damage to the district and others.”

Sue Burke, one of the downtown property owners opposing the new taxes, said she wouldn’t object to a swift hearing on the merits of the case.

“I don’t want this thing to drag out,” she said, adding that the sooner a judge rules on the taxes, the sooner she can make decisions about whether to move her business.