Earlier this year, I wrote that the Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals, in City of Sullivan v. Sites, had struck down an ordinance of the City of Sullivan that established a higher tap fee for connecting to the city’s sewer main in a particular part of town. The voters of the City of Sullivan had approved a $3.3 million bond issue to extend sewers to a part of the city without sewer service. The city’s board of aldermen adopted an ordinance imposing a connection fee in the newly-served area that was higher than the connection fee charged in the remainder of the city.
The Sites trust challenged the constitutionality of the ordinance establishing the higher connection fee, claiming that the ordinance violated Article III, section 40(30), which prohibited the passage of local or special laws where a general law would suffice. A general law relates to persons or things as a class, while a special or local law relates to particular persons or places.
However, Missouri Supreme Court’s opinion in City of Sullivan v. Sites, reversed the Court of Appeals decision and affirmed the trial court’s decision upholding the ordinance. The Supreme Court reviewed court decisions that recognize that prohibitions against special or local laws “should not prevent necessary geographic classifications premised on legitimate distinguish characteristics.” The Supreme Court determined that the Site trust’s property was not singled out, but was a part of a geographic area n area that was defined as a class.
The Supreme Court held that “the city was justified in creating the class of new sewer connections charged higher connection fees,” having demonstrated good financial and practical reasons for requiring property in the newly-served area, noting that the imposition of higher fees in the new area “contributed to the City’s ability to fund the sewer project as a whole.”