January 29, 2008

They steal roads don't they!

With Elliott Davis of You Paid For It about to put the spotlight on Koch Road and O'Fallon, I thought it might be a good time to try and explain how a public road can be stolen. I hope the analogy below helps explain this better and if anyone has questions you can post a comment or send me an email. I also have a listing of links regarding Koch Road on the right.

Let's say you hire a real estate agent to sell your house but later change your mind and advise the agent she can't sell the house. Despite your instructions, the agent enters into a real estate contract for the sale of your house with a good friend of hers. The contract, however, provides closing will not take place (when the buyer would actually own the property) until (1) a new home is completed for you, and (2) that new home is inspected and accepted by the city where you live.
Of course, you would be furious with your agent for entering into this illegal contract and you file a lawsuit to have the court set aside the contract. The law is clear that your agent could not enter into a contract to sell the house without your permission so you fully expect to prevail in court. Although the case may take months to wind its way through the system you have time because the conditions of the contract (i.e. the new house be completed and accepted) have not been met. However, to your shock, you wake up one morning and realize the potential buyer of your house illegally tore it down the night before.
When you turn to the city you live in for help you soon realize it will not do anything because it is also friends with the buyer. While it is quite clear the buyer violated the terms of the contract it is also clear the buyer committed a crime, however, your city, your agent and the county prosecutor refuse to do anything. In fact, despite its knowledge that the buyer has illegally torn down your house and does not own the property, the city gives its friend (the buyer) a permit to build a new house on your land.
The city is well aware of its role in this crime but instead of correcting its mistake it decides to write a letter to your agent in which it (flat out lies) says that your new home was completed and accepted. Your agent knows this is a lie but still tries to proceed on the sale of your house. While all of this is going on the Judge rules, as expected, that your agent had no right to sell your house and, therefore, the Judge sets aside the contract.
What are you left with? Your home has been destroyed and the new home they want you to move into hasn't even been finished. The buyer, with the help of the city and your agent, went ahead and built a new house on your land and sold the home to innocent buyers who were not told the original buyer did not own the land it sold. The innocent buyers move into their new home unaware it is sitting on property they do not own. When the new buyers find out they have been mislead they file a lawsuit against the buyer, and like your lawsuit against the agent, they have a great case. However, as expected, the city tries to the rescue its friend again and now claims it owned your land the whole time. Looks like you have to file another lawsuit.
While the names in this story have been changed, it was not done to protect the guilty but instead to (hopefully) better explain the illegal conduct regarding Koch Rd. Here are the actual players:
  • Your house=your road, Koch Road.
  • You=the residents of St. Charles County, the true owners of Koch Road.
  • Your real estate agent=St. Charles County
  • The illegal sales contract=The illegal ordinance passed by St. Charles County giving Koch Road to the developers.
  • The buyer (and friend of the agent and city)=Hyland Green/McBride & Sons
  • The city=O'Fallon, Missouri
  • The prosecutor=Jack Banas
  • The innocent buyers=innocent buyers

In the real world no one would think they can tear down a house they don't own, at least without paying the consequences. However, we don't live in the real world in St. Charles County where the builders/developers own more than just land. In our world, not only can a builder/developer steal a public road but our representatives are more than willing to help them.

For those of you who wonder why this story has not appeared in the Post-Dispatch and Suburban Journal (both owned by Lee Enterprises), I will be posting an update on an earlier post later this week.

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