Ruling on Oakville trash-transfer station goes to Court of Appeals

Campisi says he’ll continue to fight trash-transfer station

By BURKE WASSON

Now that a Circuit Court judge has rejected a county councilman’s appeal to halt the construction of a trash-transfer station in Oakville, an attorney representing nearby residents has taken the fight to the Missouri Court of Appeals.

Attorney Lester Stuckmeyer filed a motion last week to appeal St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Barbara Ann Crancer’s Nov. 16 decision to deny his attempt to intervene in the case over the trash-transfer station between St. Louis County and Fred Weber Inc.

Crancer last week also denied an after-trial motion by 6th District County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, that sought reconsideration of her Oct. 19 ruling allowing the construction of the trash-transfer station.

After years of legal battles, County Counselor Pat Redington agreed in October to a settlement with Fred Weber Inc. to construct the trash-transfer station. Redington has said that because Weber now has adhered to concerns from the county departments of health, planning and highways on the proposed station, she sees no need to continue legal opposition to it.

But Stuckmeyer, who has represented residents who live near the trash-transfer site on Baumgartner Road, believes that Weber’s alterations to the station should be decided by the County Council and not settled in court.

“Apparently, the application was modified at the court level, which they’re not allowed to do,” he said. “But apparently, some modifications were made pursuant to some recommendations from the Department of Health. And we don’t know what those are.

“We’re trying to discover those, and the Department of Health had them submitted. Somebody is going to FOI (Freedom of Information) the Department of Health on this and see what exactly was amended. How did they change their stance from something that was a noxious health hazard and a nuisance to now being OK? So we’re trying to figure out how they made that decision and we’re not really quite sure …

“That’s up to the council to decide whether their amendments are proper. And it’s not proper before the court.”

Stuckmeyer said he also is studying several other facets of the case in his appeal.

Attorney Robert Epstein, who is representing Weber, was unavailable for comment before press time.

Crancer originally decided Oct. 19 to allow the construction of Weber’s Oakville trash-transfer station after Redington had challenged the proposal since 2004.

The trash-transfer station was one of three such facilities that Fred Weber Inc. had been denied by the County Council, spurring legal challenges in 2004.

In 2005, the Eastern District Missouri Court of Appeals ruled that the county used faulty logic in denying Weber’s request for the trash-transfer station.

During Weber’s petition for the station, the County Council adopted an ordinance prohibiting trash-transfer stations within 1,000 feet of churches, residences, schools, child-care centers, nursery schools or nursing homes. Weber’s site for the transfer station on Baumgartner Road is within 1,000 feet of the Canaan Baptist Church at 5409 New Baumgartner Road.

But the Eastern District Missouri Court of Appeals ruled the ordinance invalid be-cause the county did not have a public hearing or receive a recommendation from the Planning Commission before amending its zoning ordinances.

With Crancer’s ruling and Weber’s attorneys’ willingness to now drop requests for attorneys’ fees and civil-rights damages that Redington has referred to as “millions” of dollars, Redington previously told the Call she believes she is acting in the county’s best interests by not pursuing further litigation to stop the facility.

But Stuckmeyer believes that Redington denied not only the County Council, but also residents from providing input into the process by not informing the County Council of her Oct. 19 settlement until the decision was unveiled at a Nov. 8 Oakville town-hall meeting.

“There has been no public discussion about this,” Stuckmeyer said. “And that’s the part that kind of irritates everybody.

“There has been no public discussion. This thing got resolved without any ability for the public to have an opportunity to talk on it … And that’s what we’re pretty upset about. The people were just completely cut out of the process and weren’t given an opportunity to participate. That’s all we’re asking — an opportunity to participate.”

Campisi said now that his after-trial motion has been denied, he and Stuckmeyer would seek other avenues to fight its development.

“I’m going to go as far as I can with it,” Campisi said. “I’m going to do whatever I can, whatever it takes to take it to the highest court if I can. And I’ll go as far as I can. That’s all I can do for the people in south county. I’ll be working with Les Stuckmeyer on some of the other issues that may come up. And together hopefully we can come up with some more ideas to take it back to court again.”

In Campisi’s unsuccessful after-trial motion, he accused Redington of not informing the County Council of Crancer’s ruling until weeks after that decision.

“Counselor Redington is the lawyer for the St. Louis County Council, a named defendant,” Campisi’s motion states. “However, she never informed the council of the judgment entered on Oct. 19, 2007, adverse to the council’s vote under review.

“Furthermore, she never informed the council about any proposed ‘Settlement Agreement’ to waive all appeal rights in this case.”

The motion continues, “No lawyer, much less a counselor for a public body on a case of great public importance, has the right to sign away the client’s case without proper consultation and consent from the client.”

Campisi’s motion concludes, “In the absence of proper conduct by the attorney representing the County Council and in the absence of sufficient time for the County Council to digest the developments and react collectively, Councilman Campisi takes the emergency action of making this motion to preserve the council’s legitimate right to decide whether to appeal.”

As for not informing the County Council of Crancer’s ruling or her decision to not appeal it, Redington has said that authority rests with the County Counselor’s Office and not the County Council.

Campisi, however, contends that it is not unusual for Redington to update the County Council on litigation matters and has questioned why she did not inform the council of the court decision allowing Weber to construct the trash-transfer station and her decision not to pursue further legal action.