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Counties and other political subdivisions subject to city police powers

In Engelage v. City of Warrenton, 378 S.W.3d 410 (Mo.App. 2012) the Missouri Court of Appeals held that Warren County was required to comply with the City’s Building Code and pay applicable building permit fees when constructing a county building inside the City. The Court of Appeals rejected the County’s claim of exemption as “overreaching” because a city’s general police powers, like building construction regulations, are not the same as more limited zoning powers. Noting that “police powers of a city generally extend to all within its boundaries, including other political subdivisions,” the court ruled that “the legislature here vested the city, and the city alone, with authority to protect public safety.” The court concluded, “[t]o hold otherwise ‘would be to create little separate and independent kingdoms within the city where the sovereignty given to it by the state could not operate.”’ The decision clarifies that a county, like schools and other political subdivisions, are obligated to comply with City Building Codes and apply for and pay building permit fees. Attorneys from CVR represented Warrenton in this case and would like to thank the MML for its support of the City’s position before the Court of Appeals.

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