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Jim Shirato: Lawsuit charges are unfounded.
Jim Shirato: Lawsuit charges are unfounded.

Stalled Shirato development charged with polluting Table Rock

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Attorney General Chris Koster has filed a lawsuit against the developers of the stalled Indian Ridge Resort in Branson West, alleging violations of Missouri's Clean Water Law.

Developers Jim Shirato, Springfield developer and owner of Indian Ridge Resort Inc., and Donald Snider, managing member of North Shore Investments LLC, broke ground in 2005 for the planned $1.6 billion, 850-acre Stone County development, which was to include hundreds of homes, condominiums, an eight-story hotel, a water park, a golf course, a conference center, retail shopping and restaurants, according to a news release from the attorney general's office.

Koster said work ceased at the site in August 2008 when the developers' bank failed and was taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Since construction stopped, Koster alleges that rainfall has caused sediment to wash from cleared areas into erosion channels, eventually winding up in Table Rock Lake.

“Every developer in our state is aware of the obligation to ensure the environmental integrity of their development sites,” Koster said in the release. “This office will aggressively pursue any developers who show disregard for our environmental laws.”

Jim Shirato, who responded to a Springfield Business Journal phone call on-site at the Branson West development, said he was made aware of the lawsuit this morning and was taken aback.

"That's just absurd," he said. "We're out here right now."

He confirmed that the development was put on hold in 2008 and said the developers have since performed a balancing act between the FDIC, which held funding in the failed bank pending examination, and the Environmental Protection Agency, which directed the developers to conduct erosion control work on the delayed site.

Shirato said the developers recently received FDIC approval to perform the remediation work and have been working for weeks to clean the site, along with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

He added that charges stating that sediment had washed into Table Rock Lake were unfounded.

"I cannot tell you why they said that, all I can tell you is that we are here, we have been here, and we'll continue to be here working on the implementation of the remediation plan with our engineering group," Shirato said, referring to Springfield-based firm Heithaus Engineering Inc.

In the lawsuit, Koster is pushing for a court order to require the defendants to comply with the Clean Water Law, to incur a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000 per day for each violation of the law, to pay for the damage to Table Rock Lake and to pay the costs associated with the case.

As to the lawsuit, Shirato said it was too soon to speculate on action to be taken.

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