From the Frontlines

A CastleWatch exclusive submitted by members of Stop the Sunset Hills Land Grab

It’s said the only things you can be certain of are death and taxes. In Sunset Hills, we aren’t sure of either.

Recently, the Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen and Mayor James Hobbs admitted their mistake and repealed many of the ordinances that would give the power of eminent domain and $42 million in TIF funds to Novus Cos. and Jonathan Browne to build a retail project in the Sunset Manor neighborhood. According to Mayor Hobbs, “The City, the Board of Aldermen and the TIF Commission were misled in regards to the accuracy of the proposal from Novus.” Other aldermen told the audience in attendance that they had been deceived by Novus and Browne and were “truly sorry this happened.”

The headline in the Post-Dispatch on February 15 said “Sunset Hills board kills troubled project.” Yet, Mayor Hobbs was quoted by a Post-Dispatch reporter that evening as refusing to rule out the possibility that Novus and Browne could come back yet again. “About the only way we’d listen to them (Novus and Browne) is if they came to us with a strong partner.”

The City also allowed Novus and Browne to remain the preferred developer, allegedly to collect monies owed to the City by Novus. Browne was at the board meeting and said he “remains committed to trying to get a deal done with the city.”

So when is dead really dead? And, how does the City leave any glimmer of hope that our tax money may still be used in any way by a developer who they admit misled them? How can we as residents of Sunset Manor really know the danger has passed?

The Mayor and aldermen now say they will appoint an eight-member task force to decide what the City should do about struggling Sunset Manor neighborhood. But, Hobbs says he will not appoint any resident or commercial property owner who opposed the City’s land grab to the task force. Opponents of the project were absolutely right from the start and chose to seek their guaranteed legal remedies for the injustice being done them. A St. Louis County Circuit Court agreed and overturned the city ordinances allowing the project. The City admits they were wrong. But, those in the right have been banned from deciding their own future.

This is nothing new. Mayor Hobbs and the board have repeatedly denied public comment, held closed meetings, called for emergency votes on the weekend, and rejected petitions from residents. The process has not been open to those affected.

Death and taxes may be certainties in other places. Just not Sunset Hills.