Topeka’s Mayor and City Manager discuss pressing topics in community during monthly conference

Shawnee County commissioners released a statement last week which said Shelby Development has not paid property taxes since 2017
Published: May. 23, 2023 at 11:08 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Topeka Mayor Mike Padilla was asked Tuesday if he has been involved in discussions regarding the future of one of Topeka’s largest venues: Heartland Motorsports Park.

“I have not. I have not had any direct discussions with anybody with regards to what plans, what actions may or may not be taken,” said Mayor Padilla.

Shawnee County commissioners released a statement last week which said Shelby Development has not paid property taxes since 2017, refuted assistance, and did not begin the process to appeal the property valuations they dispute.

In a statement provided Monday, Heartland Park owner and Shelby Development managing partner Chris Payne called that a “false narrative,” and accused the county of trying to tax them out of ownership.

Mayor Padilla said Heartland Park has drawn tens of thousands of people to Topeka for its events.

“We appreciate their attendance and then also the stampede. That’s another big event that we were able to garner, and it’s been a well-attended event.”

Payne said if his appeal is unsuccessful, the stage is set to close the track.

While Mayor Padilla acknowledged the benefits of having Heartland Park in the City, it still must adhere to financial requirements.

“It’s important to have it as a regional activity and a regional resource, but there are business concerns that have to be taken into consideration for every operation.”

City manager Steve Wade echoed the Mayor’s sentiments.

“We all have an obligation to pay our taxes, and we appreciate having Heartland Park and we appreciate having the events that we just talked about. But, certainly we also have an obligation to the rest of the taxpayers to do our service also.

Wade said officials have begun planning the early steps of creating a recently approved land bank program.

“Our first steps are trying to assemble a team, with the Mayor just mentioning and we’ll go through that. But beyond that, we’ll start to identify areas, neighborhoods that are in special needs where we may have some opportunity.”

Mayor Padilla said there will be specific criteria for the newly formed land bank committee.

“One person would be an active person from NIA (Neighborhood Improvement Association.) We’d have a city council member, and then somebody designated by the City Manager as a City employee. So those are 3 of the 5... there are two open positions and those are at-large.”