Friday, February 26, 2010

Opponents of Paul McKee's Northside Development: Do They Want It Both Ways?

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 11:46 AM

click to enlarge A vacant crumbles on the north side - PHOTO BY JENNIFER SILVERBERG
  • Photo by Jennifer Silverberg
  • A vacant crumbles on the north side
Logically, it seems, Paul McKee can only be guilty of one of the following:
  • A scheme to gobble up a bunch of homes on the north side (using eminent domain), and to then bulldoze 'em into the ground to make room for his development dream; OR,
  • Feigning a commitment to revitalize the north side, when in fact what he really wants is to concentrate on the downtown areas of his plan.
Curiously, Anti-McKee crusaders seem to be claiming that he's guilty of both.

Yesterday was day #2 of what everybody's calling the Northside trial (for our feature on this lawsuit, click here). Media coverage at the circuit court has been voluminous: the Post-Dispatch, KMOX, KWMU and Fox 2 News were all there.

Grilled on the stand by the plaintiffs' attorneys, Aldermanic Chairman Lewis Reed and Alderwoman Kacie Starr Triplett reportedly both defended the board's approval of the ordinances that McKee needed to go forward with his $8 billion, 20-year plan. They both said that a "blight" designation was declared in McKee's proposed area to foster development.

The plaintiffs' attorneys are claiming that the city did not follow proper procedures in declaring blight -- a necessary condition for eminent domain -- and therefore the ordinances should be voided.

Former Alderwoman Irene Smith, who's currently the legal counsel for a different lawsuit threatening McKee's plan, apparently agreed that the blight was improper, telling Fox 2 News that "the major issue is the Board of Aldermen didn't follow the state statute therefore the ordinance should be voided." But then she continues:
...[the city and the developer] put a lot of focus on the northside development but when you look at the plan and what the Board of Aldermen has approved thus far...[it's] in downtown St. Louis," pointed out Smith. "It does not involve the core areas of north St. Louis that really need development."
Smith's not the only one. Attorney Eric Vickers told Daily RFT in January that McKee's vow to not use eminent domain is "disingenuous," and that the home owned by his client, Cheryl Nelson, lies in danger of the wrecking ball.

But Vickers also asserted that McKee sold his plan to the public by promising to reconstruct the "hard, run-down areas" of North St. Louis, when in fact "the first part of the money is going downtown."

So which is it? Is McKee going to ignore the north side, or tyrannically develop the north side? Can he do both at the same time?

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