Judge finds in favor of developer in Kearney quarry quandary

The plan to temporarily open quarry activities on the southeast quadrant of Interstate 35 and 19th Street, seen here, to remove enough limestone to level the property for future development of retail spaces, corporate offices, a hotel, movie theater, convenience store, restaurants, apartments and parking garage stalemated with a tie vote of aldermen this winter. The board will reconsider the project Monday, June 1.

KEARNEY — City leaders in Kearney will again discuss the state of multimillion dollar development deal that includes temporary reopening of a former quarry on Monday, June 1, after Clay County Circuit Court found in favor of development company I-35 Holdings in its lawsuit against the city.

The development company, owned by Craig Porter and Chris Shipley, sued the city earlier this month, claiming city leaders used an improper methodology to determine if protest petitions were valid. The suit also claimed a related super majority vote was not needed for passage of the project.

This winter, city staff, citing city ordinance, said the city's receiving of written petitions from impacted residents meant aldermen needed to pass approval for I-35's large-scale development project by super majority — three of the city's four aldermen — instead of a typical simple majority.

“The protest petition submitted in this matter was legally invalid and with no force. Plaintiff's ordinance shall be placed on the next available agenda of the Board of Aldermen in Kearney, Missouri, following the entry of this judgment,” states the Circuit Court Judge Janet Sutton's finding.

At issue is a conditional use permit and rezoning request of about 128 acres at the southeast quadrant of Interstate 35 and 19th Street. Developers sought rezoning of the land to a planned industrial district and sought the permit to allow quarry operations on the property for up to seven years. Reopening of the quarry on the property, which was in operation decades ago, was needed, the developers said, only to allow removal of rock and leveling of the land to prepare it for a future mixed-used development that could be worth more than $200 million and would include apartments as well as retail and restaurant spaces. Developers contend the project would be good for Kearney's future as it would create needed, affordable multi-family housing in the city as well as jobs and more retail and restaurant opportunities.

The project ultimately failed to receive approval in January when the vote stalemated 2-2 with Aldermen Dan Holt and Kathy Barger in favor and Aldermen Gerri Spencer and Marie Steiner against.

“The votes that have already been cast shall not be allowed to be changed. No discussion on the motion shall be allowed nor shall other motions, whether to table or reconsider the ordinance, nor shall any motion or procedural device be employed or allowed, and the vote on the ordinance shall not otherwise be delayed or hindered. And no further submittals, changes, additions or corrections or any 'fix' relative to any new ore existing protest shall be allowed,” states Sutton's finding. The finding also states because the last vote on the issue was tied, Mayor Randy Pogue will be able to cast a tie-breaking vote.

Aldermen meet next at 6:30 p.m. June 1. For details on access to the open public meeting, call City Hall at 628-4142.

Managing Editor Amanda Lubinski can be reached at amanda.lubinski@mycouriertribune.com or 903-6001.

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