LSL man continues fight against city over 25-year-old agreement
By: Michael R. Smith
There’s an adage that says “You can’t fight city hall.” A Lake Saint Louis businessman is testing that statement, continuing his fight with the city over a 25-year-old agreement struck when the city was much less developed and had fewer zoning requirements.
“At this stage, I’ve won,” said businessman Floyd Withers, after two judicial decisions. However, he and LSL will reappear in court on Sept. 28 because the city is asking Circuit Court Judge Jon Cunningham to amend or reverse his trial decision.
Withers said an agreement in 1987 that he made with the city allowed Lake Saint Louis to annex his property but keep it under St. Charles County zoning codes. Later, Withers transferred ownership of the property to a corporation he owns.
Matt Reh, attorney representing the city with the firm Armstrong Teasdale, said that the annexation agreement is viewed differently by the city and Withers. The “interpretation of the document is in dispute.” The city “wants to appropriately enforce its codes.”
About 6 acres, the property on Veteran’s Memorial Parkway just east of Bent Oak Drive was about half-developed with a used-car dealership when it was annexed. Withers continued to develop the property and it now has a car lot, office and warehouse space, a storage company, and multiple tenants. Some of the tenants have been in the location 34 years, Withers said.
He said problems began with the city in 2006 after the leadership that negotiated the annexation agreement had departed and current Community Development Director Steve Schertel began issuing Withers and his tenants zoning code violations. The property is zoned Highway Commercial which the city used in 1987 because, Withers said, it had no other classification to use.
Withers said about two-thirds of the current development and tenants would be disqualified under the Highway Commercial designation but says the city “never intended to enforce it” on him and doesn’t have the authority because he’s under St. Charles County codes by the annexation agreement.
“Who would do this — put up businesses knowing that they’re going to be illegal?” Withers said. “I’m not getting away with anything.” He said he’s been a good businessperson, except with how current city leaders interpret the annexation agreement. “I’ve never had a problem with my tenants, residents, or the city police.” Withers said he continues to pay business taxes and fees to Lake Saint Louis.
After trying to reconcile the matter with city staff while continuing to receive code violations from the city, Withers sued the city in 2008 to enforce the annexation agreement. A summary judgment by the court fell to the city’s favor, saying the city could enforce its codes.
On appeal the higher court sent the matter back to Judge Cunningham and ordered a trial. After a two-day trial this summer the judgment fell to Withers’ favor and that the city had “no authority” with its codes because of the original agreement.
The city is now appealing Cunningham’s judgment and asking him to reverse or amend his decision. The two parties will meet again in court later this month.