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Northside projects get aldermanic approval

A small piece of an $8.1 billion plan to redevelop north St. Louis took another step forward today.

Without any discussion, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved a bill that authorizes developer Paul McKee  to build a recycling center at 10th and Mullanphy, and rehab, demolish or clean up 23 properties in the 1,500-acre development zone. Mayor Francis Slay - a big supporter of the project - says he will sign the bill, and construction could begin in late March.

The measure from Ald. April Ford Griffin is an attempt to address a July ruling by Judge Robert Dierker, who threw out almost $400 million in public financing because the original development agreement was too vague. In particular, McKee supporters are looking at this wording from Judge Dierker's decision in October 2010 denying a motion for a new trial:

Certainly defendant Northside could now seek to procure an executed project agreement from the City and so cure the defect in the ordinances at issue, but the fact that the project comes at the end of the sequence, rather than simultaneously with the adoption of the ordinances designating the redevelopment area and approving the redevelopment plan, does not seem to the Court to be inconsistent with the statute.

Not so fast, say the attorneys that filed the lawsuit leading to Dierker's ruling. Because the judge threw out the overall development plan for the 1,500 acres, Ford Griffin's legislation - the one that authorizes the recycling center and the demolitions - is the only such plan for the project. That means, says Bevis Schock, the aldermen missed a bunch of steps in their deliberations.

"They're supposed to do a whole procedure," he says. "There's no blight study that relates specifically to this project. There's no financing." (Schock and his co-counsel made a similar  argument during the 2010 trial, saying the city didn't follow proper procedures when it approved the original redevelopment plan)

Schock says his clients have yet to decide if they will challenge the new law.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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