Despite Franklin County Planning and Zoning’s efforts to shut it down, Denny Farms Inc. will be allowed to go ahead with a four-wheel drive mudfest Saturday, Oct. 5, in Robertsville.
A revocation hearing for the conditional use permit was scheduled for Tuesday night’s planning board meeting, but the board was forced to table the matter due to a temporary restraining order granted by the court to Denny Farms last week.
Michael and Debra Buchanan, president and vice president of Denny Farms, respectively, filed a lawsuit Sept. 11 against Franklin County, planning board members and Scottie Eagan, planning director, alleging that Denny Farms was not given due process as outlined in the county’s unified land use regulations and therefore, the county should not be able to hold a revocation hearing.
According to the regulations, Section 65, before a CUP is revoked, “a written notice (by certified mail or personal delivery) that a violation has occurred shall be delivered to the permit holder,” and the notice will allow the permit holder “a specific time period to abate the violation or otherwise correct the problem.”
In a letter to the Buchanans dated May 14, 2013, Eagan states that it was brought to the county’s attention that some of the conditions of the use permit had been violated during and after a mudrun event held May 4 and that a revocation hearing was scheduled for June 18.
The June 18 hearing was tabled, but the planning board put the issue back on the agenda for Sept. 17.
The lawsuit alleges that prior to both hearings, Denny Farms was only given a notice of the revocation hearing and the county never gave them a specific time period to rectify any alleged violations stated in the letter.
Denny Farms Inc. was granted its first CUP in February 2003 to hold two mud events per year.
The conditions stated that the Buchanans had to comply with land use regulations, provide clearly marked parking areas, clean up the premises after each event and end the events by midnight.
The conditions also prohibited any vehicles from entering the Meramec River.
In 2005, the Buchanans applied to amend the CUP requesting they be able to hold three events per year.
The CUP was granted March 15, 2005, with the same conditions, but the planning board added that the Buchanans had to erect Jersey barriers in front of spectators, traffic could not be “stacked” on the county road and all mud had to be removed from vehicles prior to leaving the premises.
The planning board alleges in the letter to the Buchanans that during the May 4 event, vehicles extended beyond the defined banks of the Meramec River, traffic was stacked onto the county road and mud was not removed from vehicles. It also alleges that the event extended beyond the allotted time of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Eagan’s letter further states that Denny Farms allegedly misrepresented itself and made false statements during the original application for the CUP in 2003 because the corporation was dissolved in 2002 by the Secretary of State’s office.
In a June 5 letter to Eagan the Buchanans, represented by Joseph Blanner, an attorney from Chesterfield, stated that no specific information was given regarding the alleged violations and Denny Farms “denies that the foregoing requirements were violated.”
Blanner further states that Denny Farms was dissolved because it failed to file an annual report, a “common occurrence” among corporations, and that the company can easily be reinstated.
According to the Missouri secretary of state website, Denny Farms was reinstated Sept. 13, 2013, and Blanner said that reinstatement was retroactive. In other words, it was as if the company was never dissolved.
Eagan questioned Blanner on the legality of the Buchanans’ operations, as state statute dictates that a corporation administratively dissolved may “continue its corporate existence, but not carry on any business except that necessary to wind up and liquidate its business . . .”
According to notes from the planning and zoning’s database, complaints also were lodged against the Buchanans in 2007 and 2009.
At least one revocation hearing was scheduled in July 2007, but the CUP was not revoked.