Judge dismisses lawsuit over Queens Road taxing districts because of lack of attorney
photo by: Mike Yoder
A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Lawrence man against the City of Lawrence over the Queens Road taxing districts.
Earlier this month, a judge gave Lawrence resident Kurt Schaake until noon Tuesday to secure an attorney or the case would be dismissed. No attorney has been retained, and Judge Amy Hanley issued an order Tuesday afternoon dismissing the case, with prejudice, for lack of prosecution. Dismissal with prejudice means the case cannot be filed again.
In January, Schaake, a Queens Road homeowner, filed a lawsuit against the city in Douglas County District Court claiming that the taxing districts are arbitrary and capricious and therefore out of line with state law, as the Journal-World has reported. Representation in the case became an issue after Schaake’s attorney, Richard Hird, filed a motion to withdraw from the case in August. The lawsuit technically names James Kurt Schaake, trustee of the Donald Dean Schaake Revocable Trust, as the plaintiff, and Hanley determined that Schaake could not legally represent a trust as a nonlawyer.
The taxing districts have been a contentious issue with homeowners near Queens Road, and attorney fees for the case had been partially funded by other homeowners in the taxing districts, according to a GoFundMe page for the litigation effort. Schaake told the Journal-World Tuesday that although the case was dismissed he was not done opposing the taxing districts. He said he would be looking into alternatives, including litigation by some other means.
“The bottom line is it’s been a year since the ordinance has passed, and the issue isn’t any different — that the city didn’t follow the statute,” Schaake said.
Hird previously argued that the city’s taxing districts are out of line with state law because the city didn’t determine what special benefit accrued to properties within the districts; that the city improperly excluded properties; and that the properties within the districts were not benefited in equal relation to the financial burden imposed. The city denied those claims, arguing that the city provided reasons for why each area was included, including direct and indirect access to Queens Road and whether each area had previously been included in a district for another street in the area.
The city has been voluntarily putting the Queens Road reconstruction project on hold until the case is resolved. Following the dismissal Tuesday, City Attorney Toni Wheeler said that, tentatively, reconstruction of Queens Road could begin in the spring of 2020.
Mayor Lisa Larsen said she was pleased to see the case resolved and was looking forward to the upcoming reconstruction project.
“We are really pleased with the judge’s ruling, and we really look forward to moving forward on the project and getting the road completed,” Larsen said.
The Queens Road street project is estimated to cost about $4.83 million, of which the city will contribute about $640,000. There are about 400 properties in the Queens Road taxing district that will contribute toward the remaining $4.2 million, according to city documents. The Queens Road intersection project is estimated to cost about $450,000, all of which will be assessed to properties in the taxing district. There are about 515 properties in the intersection district, which includes the 400 from the street project district. The property owners will contribute toward the cost of the project in proportion to the square footage of their parcels.