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STL judge: no city vote to spend city funds on stadium

  

Saint Louis, Mo. —St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Thomas Frawley declared a city ordinance requiring a public vote before spending local funds on a new NFL stadium invalid today, giving stadium supporters another legal win.

Frawley also addressed the issue of adjacency in his ruling, stating that the proposed location for a new NFL stadium does not violate state statute that requires the structure be “adjacent” to an existing convention center.

“Adjacent’ has commonly been interpreted by Missouri courts to mean ‘near or close at hand,’” Frawley wrote in his ruling, saying that the definition didn’t necessarily mean the two structures must be “touching each other.” Frawley’s ruling clears the way for city bonds to be issued for the stadium project.

“Today’s ruling is very disappointing,” said Mary Ellen Ponder, Chief of Staff to Mayor Francis Slay. “We put our best and strongest arguments forward. Although the Court will not allow us to hold a public vote, the City will honor the spirit of the ordinance to the extent it can. There will be public meetings and other opportunities for public participation regarding financial assistance for a new stadium. We will also ask the Board of Aldermen to consider a new ordinance that requires a public vote for future projects and can survive a judicial challenge.”

The ruling only further entrenches critics of the new stadium, who have loudly cited both adjacency and the need for a public vote as the two biggest problems with the current plan of action by a stadium task force convened by Gov. Jay Nixon. The stadium will cost just shy of $1 billion and funds are expected to come from the NFL, team ownership, tax incentives, seat license sales, and state and local bonds.

Last month, the task force formally applied for the first round of a total of $187 million in tax incentives related to the project.

Frawley’s ruling could prove a major step forward for Nixon’s task force, who have long hoped a ruling in local court would put to bed challenges filed in Cole County by a group of Jefferson City lawmakers of both parties objecting largely to the spending of state bonds without legislative approval. Nixon’s office maintains that the extension of existing Rams stadium bonds does not need legislative oversight.

The ruling also comes before next week’s meeting in Chicago of NFL owners, where at least one item on the agenda will be Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s efforts to build a new NFL stadium in L.A.