Trial court order voids city traffic regulations on St. Louis County arterial roads

Plaintiff Energy Market 709 submitted a zoning application to re-develop a piece of property in the City of Chesterfield. The property is located at the intersection of two “arterial roads” under St. Louis County’s arterial roadway system. State statute (§ 137.558) allows St. Louis County (only) to establish a “county-arterial road system” and designate roads as part of the system, without regard to municipal boundaries. The statute then permits the County Council to establish traffic regulations and controls on such roads. Plaintiff filed an application with Chesterfield for a change of zoning and a preliminary development plan for the property. Chesterfield’s City Council approved rezoning of the property, with certain conditions. Those conditions included, among other things, providing street lights, a turn lane onto one of the arterial roads and constructing a traffic median or “pork chop” to prevent left turn movement in or out of the development onto the arterial road. After the ordinance was approved, St. Louis County then objected to the City’s “attempt to impose access management and traffic safety controls with regard to” the arterial road. Plaintiff refused to submit a site plan to the City that showed street lights or the left turn restriction and was therefore unable to obtain approval to develop the land, due in part to this dispute, Plaintiff sued both the City and the County.

 

The Court recently granted summary judgment to the Plaintiff on part of Plaintiff’s claims. In its summary judgment ruling, rather than determining that the City’s attempt to regulate traffic on the arterial road was improper only if there was a conflicting County regulation or ordinance, the trial court ruled that the City could not regulate traffic on the arterial road at all. The Court held that while the City and the County are both empowered to enforce traffic on the road, “only the County has the exclusive right to control traffic movements and safeguard traffic safety.” The Court’s ruling is being appealed by the City. However, if it withstands appeal, the ruling has potentially wide-reaching impact throughout St. Louis County, as it threatens to entirely void municipal ordinances regulating traffic and safety issues on “arterial” roads within city limits. For more information, please contact Chesterfield City Attorney Chris Graville, cbg@gravillelaw.com.