Lawyers for the village of Shiloh are due in court today for a hearing over a controversial apartment complex development.
However, six months after the suit was filed, one Shiloh village trustee says the village board has yet to be informed about or discuss the case.
"I feel there's things being hidden from us, and how can we be expected to make decisions without having all the information and this isn't the first time?" said Shiloh Trustee Bob Weilmuenster, who has opposed all development requests from The Savannah since last year.
The Savannah will be a 311-unit apartment complex on a 26-acre site just south of Memorial Hospital East, across the street from Tamarack Lane. The development, which is being planned by the Edwardsville-based private equity firm Crevo Capital, will have multiple buildings, a club house with a pool, garages, a dog park, walking trails, community gardens and a recreational lake. Rent will range from about $1,200 per month for a one-bedroom to a maximum of $2,000 for a three-bedroom depending on amenities and unit selection.
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The suit was filed in St. Clair County Circuit Court on Sept. 25 by Shiloh resident Charlotte Cox, of 1705 Cross St. Cox is asking for declaratory judgment nullifying the village’s Sept. 5 vote on The Savannah luxury apartment development’s requests for rezoning and special use permit.
"We shouldn't be making any decisions with pending litigation," Weilmuenster said. "We've never even talked about the details of the case in public or closed session — ever."
In a complex — and at times confusing — back-and-forth of motions, counter motions, amended motions, and motions to reconsider, the board voted numerous times at its Sept. 5 meeting on the project before Shiloh Mayor Jim Vernier cast two tie-breaking votes. Trustee Kurt Burrelsman also flipped his vote. In the end, the board approved switching the site from single-family to multi-family and also granted a special use permit — zoning requests developers needed in order to move forward.
At its meeting on Oct. 23, the board voted to “ratify and restate actions taken by the village board authorizing” in regards to The Savannah, beginning with the pre-application conference on April 7 and every other official village action to date, including zoning changes granted in September.
The case hinges on Cox's assertion that once the project proposal was voted down, and denied during the Sept. 5 meeting, that the board should have followed it's own ordinances and not voted on it for another year.
According to the village ordinance 151.345, as stated in the court complaint, "if a request for a special use is denied by the village board, a special use re-submittable, on the parcel, but the same owner/applicant, will not be accepted by the village for one year following the village board meeting at which the denial was made."
The project has since moved forward with zoning, permit and infrastructure street light and sewer funding agreement requests, gaining approval from the village board.
Weilmuenster doesn't think the village should have more forward on the development with questions still looming on the validity of votes on the project.
"It's crazy," he said.
However, village attorney Terry Bruckert, of O'Fallon-based Bruckert, Gruenke & Long, P.C., has advised the board trustees they can still vote on items regarding the development, despite pending litigation.
"Just because there’s a piece of litigation going on doesn’t mean you have to stop what you’re doing," Bruckert told the board during a November 2017 meeting.
But Bruckert isn't representing the village in the case. Charles Pierce, of Pierce Law Firm, P.C. of Belleville is the village's counsel on the case.
The village's response to the lawsuit, dated Feb. 14, 2018 claims the "...village was appropriate." The a motion to reconsider another vote at the Sept. 5 meeting is not the same as a re-submittable, the village's response says.
"Again, to reach the desired result, plaintiff is misreading the plain language of that section," the document states. "The plain reading of this indicates that this applies to a re-submittable, not a reconsideration on the same night."
Citing use of Robert's Rules of Order, Pierce claims on behalf of the village, "standard procedure freely allows amendments of motions... the simple fact that the plaintiff is unhappy with the outcome is not a basis for overturning the vote of the duly-elected officials."
Cox's complaint also alleges Vernier has a conflict of interest with The Savannah development, since he is employed as director of operations and safety for Phillips Company, which "could be selected to perform the plastering work on the project."
Phillips Company has done work for the village in the past. A Freedom of Information Act request made by The Progress, shows $33,328.28 in three payments made to the village from Phillips Company, also known as Phillips Interior Exterior Systems Inc., for work and development fee percentages regarding The Summit at Shiloh development off Lebanon Avenue. The payments were dated from January, August and September 2017.
However, there have been no payments issued for The Savannah development.
Included in the case court documents is a affidavit, dated Feb. 9, signed by Vernier denying any direct or indirect financial interest in The Savannah project, as well as denying any violations of any procedures.
The case will be heard before St. Clair County Judge Julia Gomric at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, March 22 in courtroom 402.
Jason Caraway, of Caraway, Fisher & Broombaugh, P.C. of Belleville, is representing Cox in the suit.