Final Heartland Park brief filed ahead of appeals court hearing

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Backers of a petition to force a public vote on the purchase of the Heartland Park race track by the City of Topeka filed the final brief with the Kansas Court of Appeals Thursday, urging the court to let voters decide.

The court has scheduled oral arguments for February 26th on an appeal by petition organizers who want a lower court ruling declaring the petitions invalid overturned.

The City of Topeka and Jayhawk Racing, Inc. have been pushing the purchase as a way to revitalize the southeastern part of the city and want to use the purchase as a jumping off point for area-wide redevelopment. In addition to the purchase itself, the city hopes to issue slightly more than $5 million in STAR bonds to fund the redevelopment.

A summer-long drive to gather signatures to force a public vote on the sale resulted in organizers acquiring more than 5,000 valid signatures to the petition. However, the petition was declared invalid on technical merits by a Shawnee County District Court Judge last fall when the city took organizers to court to ask whether it must hold a special election on the sale.

The court ruled in favor of the City of Topeka, the appeal of which set up the hearing two-weeks from today.

In filing its final brief with the court Thursday, organizers argue the city’s claims it already owns the park are untrue because of mortgages held by CoreFirst bank. Additionally, they argue City claims they can handle the purchase and sell the bonds are an administrative decision are invalid because the bond sale must ultimately be approved by the State of Kansas’ Department of Commerce.

It also argues that in a case of out Alaska “..that, absent express or implied limitation, the power of the electorate to act by initiative is coextensive with the power of the legislature..” and urges the judges to “…allow the matter to be submitted to the voters.”

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