April 28--ST. LOUIS -- A federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit that sought to block the proposed $43 million trolley line between the University City Library and the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park.
U.S. District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Jr. ruled that three of the four plaintiffs who filed the 2013 suit lack standing, as they are neither residents nor property owners in the Loop Trolley Transportation Development District. They also can't claim that paying the sales tax that funds the project or walking or driving near the trolley line gives them standing to sue, Limbaugh decided.
The fourth plaintiff, Peter Sarandos, is a property owner but fell victim to a summary judgment motion filed by the district.
Property owners with objections to the formation of a transportation development district, Limbaugh wrote, are required by state law to object when a district is formed. In this case, the district began with a petition filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court in 2007. Having failed to object in any form then, Sarandos can't sue now, Limbaugh said, citing a 2013 state appeals court decision in a similar case involving a Kansas City trolley district.
The remaining four counts of the lawsuit involve state claims, and Limbaugh declined to accept jurisdiction of those.
Sarandos and the others, including former University City Councilwoman Elsie Beck Glickert, claimed that the creation of the district was invalid, that the trolley line couldn't be created outside of trolley district boundaries, that the line lacks the necessary permits and that a subdivision's waiver allowing the line to cross a right-of-way was invalid.
Their lawyer declined to comment Monday, but a spokesman, Tom Sullivan, said the plaintiffs were considering appealing or filing the suit in state court.
"I'm very, very pleased by the result," said Joe Edwards, owner of the Blueberry Hill restaurant in University City and one of the project's principal backers. "I think it just shows we've done everything correctly the entire time. And I'm happy to have this behind us."
Edwards said bid packets will go out soon, and in roughly a month, the district should be able to choose a contractor and begin some work.
The original suit named the Loop Trolley Company, the Metro transit agency, the cities of St. Louis and University City, St. Louis County, the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission and others.
Loop Trolley backers hope it will boost economic development. It is funded by a 1-cent sales tax within district boundaries, as well as tax credits, grants, tax-increment financing and private contributions.
The project is behind schedule, but the district last month won a key approval from the Federal Transit Administration.
Robert Patrick covers federal courts and federal law enforcement for the Post-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter: @rxpatrick.
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