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PostPosted: Sat Jan 31, 2015 6:52 am 
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City, Heartland Park ask appeals judges to deny Imming's request to extend stay

Topeka Capital-Journal wrote:
The city of Topeka and Heartland Park Topeka owner Jayhawk Racing, LLC, filed separate motions late Friday afternoon asking a Kansas Court of Appeals panel to deny the request Topekan Chris Imming filed Thursday asking the panel to extend a stay it previously granted in the case past its current ending date of Feb. 5.

The Court of Appeals on Jan. 8 issued the temporary stay prohibiting Topeka’s city government from moving forward with its proposed issuance of $5 million in sales tax revenue (STAR) bonds to purchase Heartland Park until 10 days after the point when Imming, the city and Jayhawk Racing LLC had all filed briefs in the case. The latter two entities filed their briefs Jan. 26, meaning the temporary stay would expire Feb. 5.

The Court of Appeals is considering Imming’s appeal of Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks’ ruling in favor of the city of Topeka and Jayhawk Racing invalidating a petition drive Imming coordinated seeking to put to a citywide vote the city’s proposed purchase of the financially troubled Heartland Park racing facility.

The currently scheduled hearing would be two days before the city’s purchase agreement allows creditor CoreFirst Bank & Trust to foreclose on Jayhawk Racing. The memorandum of understanding allows the bank to foreclose if STAR bonds involved haven’t been issued by Feb. 28. The contract allows for extensions from that deadline of up to 90 days to be granted.

The Court of Appeals this week made plans to hear oral arguments in the case at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 26 in its courtroom, 300 S.W. 10th. Imming, the city and Jayhawk Racing then filed motions Thursday asking the court to move the oral arguments to Feb. 18, 19 or 20.

Imming also filed his motion Thursday asking for an extension of the stay granted Jan. 8. The city filed an eight-page motion and Jayhawk Racing a six-page motion on Friday, both asking that the extension be denied.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2015 7:11 pm 
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Topeka will wait for Kansas Court of Appeals ruling before taking further action on HPT

Topeka Capital-Journal wrote:
The stay prohibiting the city of Topeka from moving forward with its purchase of Heartland Park ends Thursday, but the city will wait until the appeals court has made a ruling before taking further action.

“We respect the judicial process and will await the final ruling from the Court of Appeals before moving forward,” said city attorney Chad Sublet. “Once we have a final decision from the Court of Appeals, we will continue negotiations with the proposed owners/managers of Heartland Park.”

The Kansas Court of Appeals on Wednesday denied petitioner Chris Imming’s request to extend the stay beyond Thursday, court documents showed. The order, issued Jan. 8, prohibited the city government from issuing sales tax revenue (STAR) bonds or buying Heartland Park until 10 days after all briefs were filed.

Sublet in December said the city wouldn’t move forward with issuing bonds while a stay in the appeal was pending, because it affects the marketability of the bonds.

Imming’s attorney, R.E. “Tuck” Duncan, last week requested the stay be continued at least until the oral arguments were presented, so as not to undermine the appeals process or the panel’s subsequent ruling, should the city take action before a decision is made.

Duncan said the court’s decision won’t affect their actions.

“Stay or no stay, we will continue to move forward to get a vote for the thousands of Topekans who signed the petition,” he said.

The court on Wednesday also submitted a response to requests from all parties to move up the oral hearing date from Feb. 26 to Feb. 18, Feb. 19 or Feb. 20, or next week.

The lead counsel for the city won’t be available the week of Feb. 23 because of a previously scheduled, non-refundable, out-of-state vacation. Also, Imming’s attorney isn’t available on Feb. 17 because of a previously scheduled surgery for his spouse.

However, the schedules of the three panel judges won’t allow the hearing to be moved up, the filing reads.

“This court has taken extraordinary steps in setting this matter for hearing within three months of the date of the filing of the docketing statement,” the court wrote.

The court offered a couple of alternatives: Continuing the oral argument hearing, which would push it back to sometime in April, or waiving the hearing and allowing the parties to submit the matter to the court based on their briefs.

Otherwise, the court stated, the hearing will remain at its original time and place, 9:30 a.m. Feb. 26 in the Court of Appeals courtroom, 300 S.W. 10th.

That is two days before the city’s purchase agreement allows creditor CoreFirst Bank & Trust to foreclose on Jayhawk Racing. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) allows the bank to foreclose if STAR bonds involved haven’t been issued by Feb. 28. The contract allows for extensions from that deadline of up to 90 days to be granted.

Sublet said the city is proceeding under the assumption there will be oral arguments. The city on Wednesday filed a statement of intent regarding the oral argument, saying it intends to proceed with the previously scheduled hearing on Feb. 26.

He said the city has had initial conversations about extending the MOU, but, for the meantime, will wait and see whether the appeals court issues an opinion within a couple of days of the oral argument hearing.

“We assume, based on the history of this case, it will be soon after the 26th,” Sublet said of the court’s ruling.

Even though that would mean missing the Feb. 28 deadline, he said, a favorable ruling would give the city a clear path to issuing the STAR bonds, which CoreFirst and Jayhawk Racing have said they are comfortable with. If the court takes much longer, he said, all parties, including the Topeka City Council, would have to agree to extending the MOU.

The next step would be issuing the STAR bonds, Sublet said, followed by approval from the Kansas Department of Commerce.

Despite Commerce Secretary Pat George earlier being quoted as saying the department hadn’t made a decision about the project, “tentative or otherwise,” a letter signed by him on Sept. 24 to city manager Jim Colson says otherwise:

“Based on all of the above, it is my determination that the Heartland Park Topeka STAR bond District constitutes a ‘major motorsports complex’ and is therefore an ‘eligible area’ within the meaning” of state statute, the letter reads.

Although there is a pending legislative audit into the proposal, the commerce department hasn’t sent the city any indication it wouldn’t approve the project, Sublet said.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2015 7:13 pm 
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Heartland Park owner Irwin releases tentative 2015 schedule

Topeka Capital-Journal wrote:
With every passing week there seems to be more uncertainty about the future of Heartland Park Topeka.

But HPT owner Raymond Irwin remains steadfast in his belief that the racing facility has a future, taking a leap of faith by releasing a tentative 2015 schedule.

“I think that the facility is way too important to the community and it’s way too important to the racing community as well for the activities not to occur out here,” Irwin said. “So we’ve gone ahead and put in the dates that people have requested — the traditional dates as well as certainly the NHRA event in May — and our other events.”

Irwin expressed optimism that HPT’s biggest event, the NHRA Kansas Nationals, will be take place May 22-24. This would be its 27th year at the Topeka complex.

Topeka attorney Chad Sublet said the city shared Irwin’s optimism that Heartland Park should have a racing schedule for 2015, despite the fact that a new owner hasn’t been identified and the track remains tied up in a legal battle.

Jayhawk Racing, Sublet said, “is the management company, until they’re not. They have the right to do that.”

Irwin reiterated that he won’t manage the track in 2015, but said it would be irresponsible for him not to have a schedule in place for the new track operator as well as racers and fans. Irwin said he knew people would be surprised with his decision to release a 2015 schedule, but it is his intention to have a smooth transition.

“We have a very strong schedule and it makes no sense to me, even as we continue to negotiate with the city and other entities for the operation of the facility, not to make sure that people know that we’re going to be open,” Irwin said. “I didn’t spend 12 years working to just walk away. I wasn’t raised that way, I wasn’t built that way. It would be irresponsible for me to just walk out the door like it never happened.”

The future of the 27-year-old motorsports complex now rests with a Kansas Court of Appeals panel, which on Feb. 26 is set to hear oral arguments from Irwin’s company, Jayhawk Racing, the city of Topeka and petitioner Chris Imming. That is two days before CoreFirst Bank & Trust is allowed to foreclose on the property, in accordance with a workout agreement between the bank, Irwin and the city.

Although the city anticipates the panel will issue a favorable decision within a few days of the hearing — clearing a path to issuing Sales Tax Revenue (STAR) bonds within a few days of the deadline — the parties can agree to extending the agreement by 90 days.

Once the city has a clear path to issuing the bonds, it can move forward with its goal of finding a new management company, Sublet said. Four entities submitted applications, and the city continues to work with all of them, he said.

“Until we find out what the court’s going to say, we can’t have a contract with them,” Sublet said.

The city’s plan is to issue $5 million in new STAR bonds to acquire Heartland Park free and clear of any debt. That would allow the city to extend the district boundaries to capture enough state sales tax revenue, according to projections, to cover the $17 million debt without turning to city property taxes.

Irwin is slated to receive nearly half — $2.39 million — of the new STAR bond money. He is supposed to use those funds to pay back $300,000 to CoreFirst, $184,234 to the city of Topeka and an unknown amount to vendors. How much Irwin will end up with after those payments are made won’t be known until closing. Irwin has said he will make back some of his investment, which he estimated at more than $3 million, but “not all of it.”

Of the remaining bond money, $1.9 million would go to CoreFirst, $531,868.99 to the Small Business Administration, and $500,000 to the Department of Commerce.

The complex’s 2015 schedule includes HPT’s weekly dirt track schedule as well as road racing events and the bracket drag racing schedule. The schedule also includes a double Division V multi-state drag racing event as well as the multi-state ET Finals.

“I do believe that the community wants to see the success of Heartland Park Topeka, regardless of who might be operating it, and that’s what drives me to continue to do the things that I can do at this juncture to get to the finish line,” Irwin said.

HEARTLAND PARK TOPEKA

TENTATIVE 2015 SCHEDULE

March: March 4, HPT Touring Club (road course); March 21, dirt track practice; March 28, dirt track practice.

April: April 1, HPT Touring Club (road course); April 4, Saturday Showdown dirt races; April 11, Saturday Showdown dirt races; April 18, Saturday Showdown dirt races; April 25, Saturday Showdown dirt races; April 25-26, HPT Bike Days (road course).

May: May 2, Saturday Showdown dirt races; May 6, HPT Touring Club (road course); May 8, Street Legal drags; May 9, ET Bracket Series drag races; May 9, Saturday Showdown dirt races; May 16, Saturday Showdown dirt races; May 17 HPT Bike Day (road course); May 22-24, NHRA Kansas Nationals; May 29-31, SRT; May 30 Saturday Showdown dirt races.

June: June 3, HPT Touring Club (road course); June 6, Saturday Showdown dirt series; June 13-14, HPT Bike Days (road course); June 13, Saturday Showdown dirt series; June 20, Saturday Showdown dirt races; June 26, Street Legal drags; June 27-28, ET Bracket Series drag races; June 27, Saturday Showdown dirt races.

July: July 1 HPT Touring Club (road course); July 4, Saturday Showdown dirt races; July 11, Saturday Showdown dirt races; July 12, HPT Bike Day (road course); July 16, National Council of Corvettes; July 18, Saturday Showdown dirt races; July 24, Street Legal drags; July 25-26, ET Bracket Series drag races; July 25, Saturday Showdown dirt races.

August: Aug. 1, Saturday Showdown dirt races; Aug. 5, HPT Touring Club (road course); Aug. 8, Saturday Showdown dirt races; Aug. 9, HPT Bike Day (road course); Aug. 13-14, NHRA Division V Divisional drags; Aug. 15-16, NHRA Division V Regional drags; Aug. 22, Saturday Showdown dirt races; Aug. 28, Street Legal drags; Aug. 30, Saturday Showdown dirt races.

September — Sept. 2, HPT Touring Club (road course); Sept. 4, Street Legal drags; Sept. 5, ET Bracket Series drag races; Sept. 5, Saturday Showdown dirt races; Sept. 12, Saturday Showdown dirt races; Sept. 12-13, HPT Bike Days (road course); Sept. 18-20, NHRA ET Finals; Sept. 26, Saturday Showdown dirt races.

October — Oct. 2 Street Legal drags; Oct. 3-4, ET Bracket Series drag races; Oct. 7, HPT Touring Club (road course); Oct. 11, HPT Bike Day (road course).


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 13, 2015 6:14 pm 
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Heartland Park petitioner implores appeals court to submit matter to voters

Topeka Capital-Journal wrote:
In a response brief filed Thursday, the attorney representing the Heartland Park Petition effort implores the Kansas Court of Appeals to overturn a lower court’s decision that the petition is administrative.

In the 15-page filing, R.E. “Tuck” Duncan asks the appeals court to rule the petition is legislative and subsequently “allow the matter to be submitted to the voters.”

Duncan represents Topekan Chris Imming, who initiated a petition process to bring the proposed takeover of Heartland Park Topeka by the city to a public vote. The city’s plan is to issue $5 million Sales Tax Revenue (STAR) bonds to acquire the motorsports complex free and clear of any debt in order to expand the sales tax district, so the city can pay off the debt without turning to local property taxes.

Progress on the Heartland Park project, including issuing bonds and negotiating with a new owner, has been halted pending a decision from the Kansas Board of Appeals. Oral arguments in the case are slated for 9:30 a.m. Feb. 26. in the courtroom of the Kansas Court of Appeals, 300 S.W. 10th.

Imming has appealed the Nov. 12 decision of Shawnee County District Court Judge Larry Hendricks, who found that the city ordinance to purchase Heartland Park and expand the STAR bond district — Topeka Ordinance No. 19915 — is largely administrative. Initiative petitions, the type of petition Imming filed, can’t be filed against administrative ordinances.

The city, Duncan states, wants the appeals court to uphold the ruling that the petition is administrative, because “it is an extension of the prior failed STAR bond project.”

“Were that true,” he continues, “none of the statutory requirements for notice to the public, hearings, security consents from other units of government and from the Secretary of Commerce would not have been required.”

In addition, Hendricks ruled a petition to challenge the issuance of full faith and credit STAR bonds has to be a protest petition, because STAR bonds are legislative.

“But,” Duncan wrote in Thursday’s filing, “the protest petition would not accomplish that which the initiative petition seeks ... The entire plan is not terminated by merely approving a protest.”

If there was a vote, and the city was prevented from issuing full faith and credit bonds, the city still could issue bonds backed by the sales tax and supplement any shortfall with property taxes, he argued.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 10:11 am 
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Company picked to run Heartland Park will need to make $7 million in improvements

Topeka Capital-Journal wrote:
To gain the contract to operate Heartland Park Topeka, whichever applicant Topeka’s city government chooses must agree to carry out improvements expected to cost more than $7 million, city attorney Chad Sublet confirmed Tuesday.

Sublet responded to questions about an amended project plan the city government has submitted to the Kansas Department of Commerce as part of its attempt to buy the financially troubled racing facility, which is owned by Raymond Irwin’s Jayhawk Racing LLC.

The document acknowledges the city anticipates 16 improvements — estimated to cost a total of more than $7 million — will be carried out at the track.

Those costs will be borne by the operator of the facility and not Topeka’s city government, Sublet said.

He indicated applicants for the contract understand they will need to cover those costs if they are chosen.

Sublet added that city manager Jim Colson has made it clear that if the city doesn’t acquire an operator for Heartland Park, it won’t issue the bonds.

Topeka’s city government last June unveiled its plan to purchase the racing facility. The move depends on the state’s issuing $5 million in additional Sales Tax Revenue, or STAR bonds, to try to solve problems that emerged after the council voted in 2006 to issue $10.46 million worth of STAR bonds to finance Heartland Park improvements.

Plans called for the bonds issued in 2006 to be paid off using sales tax revenue from the track. But Heartland Park’s STAR bond revenues have consistently fallen short of estimates, forcing the city to use property tax revenue to make up the difference.

The city’s governing body voted in August to buy Heartland Park and expand its redevelopment district. The plan involves the state’s issuing another estimated $5 million in STAR bonds and authorizing the city to expand the STAR bond district around the track to capture additional state sales tax dollars to pay off the debt. The total debt would come to $16.4 million, which is expected to be paid entirely by existing sales tax dollars, according to projections of existing businesses in the expanded district.

Sublet said Tuesday that Kansas statute prohibits the $5 million in additional STAR bonds from amounting to more than 50 percent of the costs for the addition to the project.

But he said the more than $7 million in costs outlined in the amended project plan will “more than match” the $5 million, with those costs being covered by the new owner or operator.

The amended project plan says the largest of those 16 costs involve spending $1.5 million to begin commerce park development, $1 million to build garages and high-end facilities, $1 million to resurface S.E. 85th and Adams streets to provide additional access and egress and $750,000 to put in a new banquet facility.

The city last year sought bids from companies interested in buying or leasing and operating Heartland Park, and received four that met its qualifications. The four bidders were MK Investments, Larry Sinks, Monopoly Acquisitions LLC and International Motorsports Entertainment and Development Corp.

City officials have postponed any further decisions regarding the purchase of the racing facility while a court case involving Heartland Park remains pending.

The case is linked to a petition drive Topekan Chris Imming initiated last year seeking to put the city’s Heartland Park purchase to a public vote. Petition drive organizers gained more than the required number of signatures needed to put the matter on the ballot for a citywide election, but Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks ruled the petition invalid in November.

Imming appealed Hendricks’ decision to the Kansas Court of Appeals, which will hear oral arguments on the matter Thursday.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 5:41 pm 
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City kept $7M improvements for Heartland Park Topeka quiet for 5 months

Topeka Capital-Journal wrote:
Dirt track racing aficionado Larry Lowrey initially was interested in operating Heartland Park Topeka. ITP Marketing, a company owned by him and his brother, successfully ran its dirt track in 2006, and he knows enough people in the industry to give it a whirl.

Lowrey, who is from Silver Lake, met with city officials, toured the complex and eventually signed up online as a bidder in late November.

That gave him access to the contract with the National Hot Rod Association — the contract that puts the city and operator of Heartland Park on the line for a revenue guarantee of $1.8 million.

Lowrey bowed out.

“If the event made $800,000, I’d have to get $1 million in five days to somebody,” he said Wednesday. “I want to negotiate in the best interest for my business, not what the city thinks is in the best interest for my business.”

If he hadn’t dropped out of the running after learning about the NHRA contract, he said, the recently disclosed need of $7 million in improvements would have done it.

Lowrey, as did most Topekans, learned about the costly improvements Tuesday, when it was initially reported by The Topeka Capital-Journal.

“I was dumbfounded by it,” Lowrey said. “You need to make money with what you have there already before you go spending it.”

The 16 projects include $1.5 million to begin commerce park development, $1 million to build garages and high-end facilities, $1 million to resurface S.E. 85th and Adams streets to provide additional access and egress and $750,000 to put in a new banquet facility. The selected owner/operator would be responsible for those improvements, which will be needed during the 11 years of the project, said city attorney Chad Sublet.

Lowrey said he didn’t see the $7 million figure among the bidding documents, but Sublet said the city notified the four prospective operators early on about the needed improvements.

The city identified the need for $7 million in improvements back in September, when it submitted its application for Sales Tax Revenue (STAR) bonds to the Kansas Department of Commerce, Sublet said. The state received the amended request Sept. 9, according to a department spokesman.

The amount of needed improvements is coming publicly to the surface only now, Sublet said, because the city’s STAR bond application is a working document — and therefore confidential — until it receives final approval from the state.

“Parts of amended plan are confidential, but some parts of the plan are considered open record,” said commerce department spokesman Matt Keith.

Kansas statute prohibits the $5 million in additional STAR bonds from amounting to more than 50 percent of the costs for the addition to the project. The more than $7 million in costs outlined in the amended project plan will more than cover that requirement, as will obtaining the $15.3 million property for $5 million, he said.

Because it didn’t add to the amount of bonds the city was asking for, and because the proposal approved by the city council referenced those improvements, the amended plan didn’t have to go back before the council, Sublet said.

Getting the documents from the Kansas Department of Commerce turned into a months long ordeal. Petitioner Chris Imming in the first week of October requested from the state the city’s application for STAR bonds. After the request was rejected, Imming filed a complaint with the Kansas Attorney General’s Office. Finally, on Feb. 11, the state released the documents for Imming to view.

Imming almost immediately noticed the $7 million figure, and wondered why someone essentially leasing the property would invest such a sum.

“I’m curious how that’s going to work,” he said. “Unless they have $7 million sitting in their pocket, would they have to mortgage the property to do that? Get a loan from CoreFirst?”

Because negotiations with the four prospective bidders are on hold pending the appeal of the petition lawsuit, Sublet said he couldn’t get into specifics about their options. However, he said, one option is to give the operator the first right to purchase the property, possibly by giving the entity credit for any money it put into the park.

“There are a lot of ways to credit them for what they put into the project,” Sublet said.

Also, he said, giving the operator a reversionary interest in the property is off the table. Current operator Ray Irwin was given such an interest when he took it over, which is one of the reasons acquiring Heartland Park has become so expensive for the city.

Sublet repeated that none of the improvements is required immediately but will need to take place during the next 11 years. The NHRA, the four potential operators who toured the complex and at least one other evaluation of the racetracks showed they currently are in “good shape,” he said.

Lowrey, however, doesn’t see why Heartland Park needs $1 million for “garages and high-end facilities” and $750,000 for a banquet hall. He also wonders how a racetrack operator will develop the land around Heartland Park.

The request for bids released by the city in November requires “preliminary concepts and ideas to develop and use the 277-plus undeveloped acres at Heartland Park.” The plan details released Tuesday estimate the cost to begin the development of a commerce park at $1.5 million.

“I don’t see how running a racetrack and developing land work hand-in-hand,” Lowrey said. “They seem like two separate things.”


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2015 4:39 pm 
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Kansas Court of Appeals hears arguments in Heartland Park lawsuit

Topeka Capital-Journal wrote:
Kansas Court of Appeals judges posed questions at a hearing Thursday that appeared to be seeking flaws in arguments Topeka’s city government made in a lawsuit regarding the city’s proposed purchase of Heartland Park Topeka.

But attorney R.E. “Tuck” Duncan, who represented petition drive organizer Chris Imming at the hearing, said that didn’t necessarily mean the judges were leaning in that direction.

“Often the judges will ask questions to see if you have some substance in your arguments, but it may not be to your liking,” Duncan told reporters afterward.

Court of Appeals Judges Stephen Hill, Karen Arnold-Berger and Kim Schroeder didn’t say when they would issue a written decision in Imming’s appeal of a ruling made in November by Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks.

As the hearing ended, Hill said, “We’ll take this under advisement and issue an opinion as soon as we reasonably can.”

He’d said earlier Thursday that the decision would likely come “sooner rather than later.”

The three judges spent about 90 minutes asking questions and hearing oral arguments in Imming’s appeal of the ruling by Hendricks, who invalidated an initiative petition drive Imming coordinated seeking to put the city’s proposed purchase of Heartland Park to a citywide vote.

Hendricks ruled the city ordinance to purchase Heartland Park and expand its Sales Tax Revenue -- or “STAR” Bond district — is administrative. State law prohibits initiative petitions such as the one Imming filed from being used to challenge administrative ordinances.

Hendricks also ruled that any petition to challenge the issuance of full faith and credit STAR bonds must be a protest petition, because STAR bonds are legislative.

The court heard Thursday from Duncan; Catherine Logan, with Overland-Park based Lathrop & Gage LLP, which is working under contract to represent the city; and Kevin Fowler of Topeka-based Frieden, Unrein & Forbes LLP, representing Heartland Park owner Jayhawk Racing LLC.

Hill raised questions as to whether the city ordinance to purchase Heartland Park is really administrative.

Duncan contended the ordinance is legislative. He told the judges: “This was a set-up deal from the start. They had no intention of listening to the petition.”

Hill noted that the ordinance to make the purchase more than doubled the size of the STAR Bond district while taking other steps that included ratifying contracts.

He asked Logan, “Is that not legislative?”

Logan replied that a past ruling written by Kansas Supreme Court Justice Dan Biles concluded that if an ordinance -- when viewed as a whole -- is more administrative than legislative, then it’s considered administrative.

Hill responded by suggesting a later ruling by Biles “kind of retreated from that.”

Topeka’s city government has halted progress on the Heartland Park project -- including postponing the issuance of STAR bonds and initiation of negotiations with a new owner -- as it awaits the Court of Appeals decision.

Fowler asked the judges to issue a ruling immediately, and later release an opinion outlining their reasoning.

He said Heartland Park would “go dark” if creditor CoreFirst Bank & Trust doesn’t receive money it’s owed within three days.

The city’s agreement to purchase Heartland Park empowers CoreFirst to foreclose on Jayhawk Racing if STAR bonds aren’t issued by Saturday, though it allows for extensions of up to 90 days to be granted.

City attorney Chad Sublet said last week that the city — after having initial conversations about extending the MOU — had decided to wait and see how quickly the appeals court reached a decision. He said he thought he court would rule fairly quickly, adding that the city could still seek to extend the MOU.

Thursday’s hearing marked the latest development in a story that became public last June, when Topeka’s city government unveiled its plan to purchase Heartland Park.

The move is targeted at solving a problem that emerged after the council voted in 2006 to issue $10.46 million worth of STAR bonds to finance improvements at the financially troubled racing facility.

Plans called for the bonds to be paid off using sales tax revenue from the track. But Heartland Park’s STAR bond revenues have consistently fallen short of estimates, forcing the city to use property tax revenue to make up the difference.

The city’s governing body consequently voted in August to buy Heartland Park and expand its STAR Bond district.

Subsequent months then saw:

-- Imming initiate his petition drive, which gained more than the required number of signatures needed to put the matter on the ballot for a citywide election.

-- The city file a lawsuit challenging the petition’s legality.

-- The city win its suit when Hendricks ruled Imming’s petition invalid in November.

-- Imming appeal Hendricks’ decision to the Court of Appeals.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2015 4:53 pm 
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Topeka spends $150K on Heartland Park lawsuit in four months

Topeka Capital-Journal wrote:
The city of Topeka has spent more than $150,000 in four months on its lawsuit challenging the Heartland Park petition.

Topeka recently received its third bill from Lathrop & Gage, the law firm representing the city’s interests in the Heartland Park petition case. Combined, the three bills amount to $152,470.69, according to city records. The bills span from Oct. 8 to Jan. 30.

Of that, $150,762.50 went toward 493.1 hours of attorney services, averaging $306 an hour.

The most recent bill from Lathrop & Gage was for $79,075.68 — $77,624 in attorney services and $1,451.68 in other costs. It covers services provided between Dec. 1 through Jan. 30, said senior assistant city attorney Catherine Walter.

December and January featured a flurry of filings and hearings in the appeal of the case:

■ Dec. 2: Petitioner Chris Imming and attorney R.E. “Tuck” Duncan filed an appeal of the Shawnee County District Court decision.

■ Dec. 9: Imming and Duncan filed a request with the Kansas Court of Appeals issue a stay, prohibiting the city from taking further action on Heartland Park.

■ Dec. 15: Topeka and Jayhawk asked the judges to deny a stay or, if it is granted, require Imming to secure more than $50 million in bonds.

■ Jan. 7: Appeals court heard arguments on Imming’s request for a stay.

■ Jan. 26: City and Jayhawk filed their briefs.

■ Jan. 29: All three parties asked the oral arguments to be moved, though the request eventually was denied.

Topeka’s contract with the firm states the city will be charged for a variety of services: travel time; “time in court, including waiting time”; telephone and office conferences; responding to clients’ requests; and drafting and review of letters, pleadings and other documents.

It also states the city will compensate the firm for costs and expenses, including mileage, meals and ground transportation. Driving from the firm’s Overland Park office, 10851 Mastin Blvd., to Topeka City Hall, 214 S.E. 8th St., which is about 130 miles round-trip.

The most recent bill adds onto the first, which amounted to $72,428.50 for 233.5 hours of work — or $310 an hour.

The second bill was for $710 in attorney services and $256.51 in costs. It covered Nov. 3 to Nov. 30, Walter said.

November was a slow month for the case: Oral arguments before Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks were heard Nov. 6, and an appeal of his Nov. 12 ruling wasn’t filed until Dec. 2.

“Most of the time spent preparing for the hearing was included on the first bill,” Walter explained.

At least another month’s worth of fees from the firm remain, though it likely won’t amount to much. February has been relatively quiet for the case, with the main action being Thursday’s oral arguments presented before the Kansas Court of Appeals.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2015 4:33 pm 
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Joined: Mon Dec 08, 2014 4:56 pm
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Heartland Park evades foreclosure for now

Topeka Capital Journal wrote:
Two days have passed since CoreFirst Bank & Trust could start the process to take over Heartland Park Topeka, and the racetrack appears to have escaped that fate — for now.

City attorney Chad Sublet said Monday CoreFirst hadn’t foreclosed on Jayhawk Racing, the company currently operating the motorsports complex. He said the bank is “taking it day by day.”

“They said they’ll wait and see what the court of appeals has to say,” Sublet said.

The Kansas Court of Appeals on Thursday heard oral arguments in the petition lawsuit. As of Monday, the court hadn’t issued a ruling.

Racetrack operator Ray Irwin on Monday said he hadn’t heard from either the city of Topeka or its bank about a foreclosure against his company.

CoreFirst president and CEO Kurt Kuta said his “official response is no comment at this time.”

If and when the bank decides to foreclose on the property, Sublet said, it has to provide the city 30 days notice.

Topeka’s agreement to purchase Heartland Park empowers creditor CoreFirst to foreclose on Jayhawk Racing as early as Monday. The memorandum of understanding involved allows CoreFirst to foreclose if State Sales Tax (STAR) bonds weren’t issued by Saturday, though it allows for extensions of up to 90 days to be granted.

Sublet has said Topeka — after having initial conversations about extending the MOU — had decided, for now, to wait and see whether the appeals court issues an opinion within a couple of days after Thursday’s oral argument hearing.

Sublet earlier said he assumed, based on the history of the case, that the appeals court would rule fairly soon after the hearing.

He indicated in early February if the court took longer than expected, the city could seek to extend the MOU.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2015 8:42 am 
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Forum Spectator
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Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2015 8:15 am
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Nick,

What can we do to help? Send letters? Email? Threats where we cut letters out of a magazine?


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