Streetcar opponents dealt another legal setback; few options left

Another legal avenue for a lawsuit challenging the downtown Kansas City streetcar line was shunted Tuesday by the Missouri Court of Appeals.

The appellate court decided that it wouldn’t take another crack at analyzing whether the streetcar funding mechanism is legal, nor did it opt to send the case on up to the Missouri Supreme Court. 

Jeff “Stretch” Rumaner and Sue Ann Burke, both business owners within the Kansas City Streetcar Transportation Development District, had filed a lawsuit to try to get the tax assessment and sales-tax increase that finances the $100 million-plus transit development thrown out. They say Missouri law doesn’t allow cities to impose a new transportation-development district where one already exists, which is what has happened in downtown Kansas City. Transportation-development districts are mechanisms that direct increases in sales taxes, property assessments or both to a fund that pays for transportation-related construction costs within a small, defined area. One TDD already exists for the development of the Power & Light District in downtown’s south loop, and then another was layered on top for the streetcar.

Interestingly enough, courts haven’t really taken up Stretch’s argument about the TDDs themselves. Instead, judges took a dim view of the timing of the lawsuit, filed after a few hundred downtown residents voted in a weird process to approve the TDD.

A Jackson County judge tossed the lawsuit, and then a panel of appeals court judges later arrived at the same conclusion. Tuesday’s decision was whether a full panel of appeals court judges would look at Stretch’s lawsuit rather than just a few who decided against it the first time.

The ruling didn’t seem to surprise Stretch’s lawyer, Mark Bredemeier, in any way.

“Rehearings are very rarely granted,” he tells The Pitch.

He has 15 days to ask the Missouri Supreme Court to take up the case. Bredemeier says he’s using that time to decide whether they will ask the state’s highest court to hear their arguments against the two-mile streetcar line stretching from the River Market to Crown Center.