Judge dismisses all claims against Shawnee Co. in Heartland Park appraisal lawsuit

Published: Apr. 8, 2022 at 4:12 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - On Friday, a Shawnee Co. judge threw out a lawsuit that challenged how the County had appraised the value of Heartland Motorsports Park.

On Friday afternoon, April 8, Shawnee County District Court Judge Thomas Luedke granted the county’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed all 11 counts brought against the county by the owner of Heartland Park, Chris Payne the sole member of Shelby Development, LLC.

Shelby lawyers had claimed the County Appraiser’s Office had illegally and improperly conducted a valuation of the property. They claimed the county had persuaded a third party to change the property’s valuation from $5.5 million to $10.4 million. Claims included negligence, fraud, conspiracy and breach of contract.

The Shawnee County Appraiser’s Office argued there had been no improprieties that affected the appraisal and even if there had been, Shelby had suffered no damage.

Court records indicate Shelby acquired Heartland Park in 2016, which had been appraised at $8.9 million at the time. Shelby appealed the value and had entered an agreement with the county that the total value for the 29 parcels of Heartland Park would be worth $5.7 million.

In March 2017, Shelby entered into an agreement with Chris Williams Member of the Appraisal Institute of CBRE, Inc., who appraised the property at $7.5 million for the year. While at the appraiser’s office, court records indicated questions arose with the appraisal of Heartland Park. A telephone conference was scheduled for March 14, between Williams, Shelby and the appraiser’s office, which lasted between 5 and 10 minutes.

During the phone call, the appraiser questioned Williams about the size and track design adjustments related to his sales comparison approach valuation. Specifically, he was asked whether he accounted for the significant differences in the amount of land between Heartland Park and the chosen comparables.

Additionally, Williams was questioned about the methodology of his appraisal so the Appraiser’s Office could apportion the value amount of the park’s 29 parcels.

Court records noted the final appraisal report the Appraiser’s Office received from Williams valued the park at $10.4 million.

The Appraiser’s Office said it had found that revisions from the draft report had been based on differences between Heartland Park, which sits on about 630 acres, and the comparable properties, which had much less land, and that the value conclusion had increased.

For the 2018 tax year, the County Appraiser’s Office saw no difference in the property and rubber-stamped it with the same $10.4 million price tag. Further appeal brought the 2017 value of the property down to $7.5 million and $8.9 for the 2018 tax year.

Williams noted the thought someone could persuade him to change his opinion of Heartland Park’s value was absurd as he had never disavowed one of his values in an appraisal report. He said revisions are routinely made for a variety of reasons and no one had told him what the value of the property should be.

Judge Luedke found Shelby had failed to provide evidence of damages and was not denied due process.

The County noted it appreciates the thorough review of the evidence and arguments in the case by the District Court.

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