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KS Supreme Court sides with City of Topeka in Heartland Park lawsuit

Heartland Park (file photo)
Heartland Park (file photo)(WIBW)
Published: Apr. 9, 2021 at 10:25 AM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A big win was handed to the City of Topeka by the Kansas Supreme Court in a lawsuit by the owners of Heartland Park.

According to the suit, the City of Topeka had agreed to purchase and assume full ownership of the motor speedway. It was to be paid for through Sales Tax and Revenue, or STAR, bonds. The city later decided against buying the park, and the private owners sued the city--seeking damages for breach of contract.

Shawnee County District Court had granted the city’s motion to dismiss, finding that the agreement was not binding on successive city councils--members who came after those who made the initial decision. The Court of Appeals reversed that decision, keeping the Heartland Park lawsuit alive. The case then progressed to the Kansas Supreme Court for review. The justices upheld the district court’s finding.

The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals. According to a release from the state’s high court, “city revenue projects may be divided into two categories: projects that serve a governmental or legislative function, and projects that serve a proprietary or administrative function. The development, introduction, or improvement of services are, by and large, considered governmental, and the power to levee a tax generally belongs to the class of governmental power. One city council may not bind a subsequent one to its political decisions involving the exercise of government functions, so the new city council was not obligated to carry out the terms of the agreement.”

Justice Eric Rosen wrote the court’s majority opinion, while Justice Caleb Stegall wrote a concurring opinion. In Justice Stegall’s opinion, he questioned the “ongoing validity and viability of the legal distinction between governmental and proprietary municipal functions.”

The $4 million lawsuit was originally filed in June 2016.

Read more on this case:

Kansas Supreme Court hears case involving Heartland Park Ownership September 14, 2020

Judge dismisses 2 of 3 counts in Heartland Park lawsuit April 5, 2017

City Officials say they will vigorously defend themselves against Heartland Park lawsuit June 6, 2016

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