COLUMBIA — One of the wealthiest men in America has avoided more than $25,000 in zoning fines.
At a Nov. 7 meeting, some City Council members expressed a strong desire to give Stan Kroenke's development firm the maximum fine for a zoning violation at the former Osco drug store site, which was being used as a temporary construction storage facility.
Since then, the equipment has been moved and The Kroenke Group hasn't been fined.
The lot was being leased by contractors working on a project that will let MU’s power plant burn wood. The city first notified the property owner of a violation on July 18 because the zoning code for "central business district" areas doesn't permit outdoor storage uses.
At the council meeting, when told by city attorney Fred Boeckmann that the maximum fine for zoning violations is $250 per day, Mayor Bob McDavid replied, "Let's do it."
The city's Office of Community Development, which oversees planning and zoning, chose not to fine The Kroenke Group. Instead, the group was sent a notice that the construction equipment being stored on the empty lot had to be moved within 15 days.
No fine was given because the property owners cooperated with the city and had the equipment moved soon after the council's decision, said community development director Tim Teddy.
"If they said, 'No, we're not going to move,' it would be a different thing," he said.
If the fine had been assessed, it could have added up to between $20,000 and $30,000, depending on how many days the city would have found The Kroenke Group in violation of the ordinance.
On Nov. 7, McDavid accused The Kroenke Group of "thumbing their nose" at the city. In an interview Monday, he said he was not able to say why a fine was not assessed.
"I do know materials have been removed from site," McDavid said. "What we did was express our interest in having the ordinance enforced."
First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt also pushed for fining the group at the November meeting.
"It's an eyesore," Schmidt said that evening. "They've had requests to use it for things like a farmers market that they have turned down, so let's fine them."
Schmidt did not return phone calls Monday afternoon seeking comment.
Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill had supported the fine, though not as adamantly as McDavid or Schmidt.
"This guy's not a newcomer to zoning," Thornhill said of Kroenke during the meeting.
In an interview Monday, Thornhill said he wanted to make sure the ordinance was followed, and he supports city staff in making its own decision about whether to fine the owner.
"I typically trust our staff to grant variances in regard to fines when they feel they're justified," Thornhill said.
Before Thanksgiving, the contractor leasing the lot from The Kroenke Group had moved its equipment from the lot.
Mark Smith, project director for McCarthy Building Cos., the contractor working on the power plant, said they responded immediately to the city's decision and relocated. He said most of the equipment is now being stored in the parking lot next to the power plant.
"The situation was resolved with minimal disruption and no delay to project completion," Smith said.