Appeals Court gives Heartland Park petition backers a Monday deadline

TOPEKA (KSNT) – The Kansas Court of Appeal set a Monday, December 22nd deadline for backers of a petition to force a public vote on the City of Topeka’s purchase of Heartland Park to respond to several motions filed Monday.

The 5:00 p.m. deadline will be met says Tuck Duncan, the attorney representing the petition’s organizers.

The court is considering an appeal of a lower court ruling in October the petitions were technically invalid, and the Topeka City Council did not have to conduct the public vote.

Monday the City of Topeka and Jayhawk Racing filed motions to block the petition organizer’s appeal and to allow the sale to go ahead.

In making their arguments, the City requested that if an injunction is granted by the Court of Appeals while it hears the case that organizers put up a $23.5 million dollar bond. The city says if the case is delayed, that’s what failure to complete it’s purchase might cost taxpayers should the organizers ultimately lose their case.

Jayhawk Racing requested the court order an additional $5.9 million bond, saying if the deal doesn’t go ahead it will put them out of business.

“I appreciate the court allowing us to respond to the two motions, particularly with regards to the bonds,” Duncan told Kansas First News shortly after the court’s order was issued. “I anticipated many of what the City and Jayhawk stated in their briefs, especially the part about the bonds.”

Duncan was also critical of the City’s argument to the court Monday that organizers placed the city’s purchase in jeopardy because of the lengthy delay in filing their motion with the appeals court following the lower court’s ruling.

“The decision was made in November and we managed to get court documents, transcripts, fees and the other associated costs filed with the Court of Appeals within 30 days. That’s something which would normally take 120 days or more. I find it disingenuous by the City to make that comment. We have one lawyer on our side, they have several, and yet we still filed this appeal in a quarter of the time it normally takes.”

Topeka City Manager Jim Colson said he had no comment when asked his reaction to the new deadline.

The City wants to purchase the race track and then issue more than $8 million in STAR bonds to build up the infrastructure surrounding it. It estimates when the project is complete the city could make up to $160,000 a year in sales tax revenue, which would off set the cost of the purchase, the STAR bonds and an additional $11 million in existing STAR bonds previously committed to the project.

The City was set to sell the bonds on December 15th, but delayed that on December 12th due to the pending appeal.

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