A request for city street sweeping on private subdivision streets was stopped before it started Monday, but that didn't stop the University City Council and several residents from spending nearly an hour on the subject.
On the advice of legal council, the city decided that it was not feasible to bring the motion to a vote. However, Councilman Stephen Kraft opened discussion by asking that City Attorney Paul Martin's legal opinion be made public.
"When we make decisions we want people to understand why we made the decision," Kraft said. "It is unfair to keep it secret."
Martin advised the city that paving private subdivision streets with taxpayer funding presented two legal challenges. They are:
- Under the Missouri Constitution, a city can't grant public money to private individuals without proving a public benefit. Martin's opinion was that the City could be challenged on the public benefit of paving a private residential street.
- Public maintenance of a private street could lead to a common law dedication of the street. By accepting responsibility for street sweeping the City could be tacitly accepting responsibility for snow plowing, potholes, reconstruction. Martin noted that similar claims have twice made it to court in recent St. Louis County history.
Martin noted that by opening the door, University City could be inviting issues in the future.
Council members Byron Price and Paulette Carr noted the indentures on private subdivisions specifically speak to maintenance of the streets.
"When a person buys a house in a private subdivision, they are presented with that information," Price said.
Carr noted that the web site for University Park subdivision lays out residents' obligations in subdivision maintenance.
Kraft argued that the city already picks up trash and bagged leaves in private subdivisions and street sweeping could be part of the trash service.
Trash collection is a fee-based service. Martin said the city could sweep private streets for a fee with a legal hold-harmless agreement between the subdivision and the city.
Ames Place trustee Janet Baum said her residents would welcome a discussion with the city on providing the service, noting that the city would likely be a cost-effective option because it has the machinery and staff in place.
Mark Shylanski, a trustee for University Heights #2, said he understood the city's legal position, but noted it didn't help him or the other residents of his neighborhood.
"I believe we are victims of our indenture documents," he told the council. "People 100 years ago didn't want their fees to go up. Any change to requires 100 percent of landowners. I live in a disfunctional subdivision."
Edward McCarthy, who has requested street sweeping from the city for several months, said city trucks travel his street 161 times a year.
"We are asking for two more," he said.
Kraft said he believed sweeping all of University City's streets was a matter of fairness to taxpaying residents. He also said that the residents of private subdivisions paid their taxes.
City Manager Lehman Walker said he would review the legal opinion and that city staff would look into the costs behind a fee for service proposal.