Saturday, February 15, 2003

Sparta, residents lose court battle with Speedway

Racetrack comes up victorious in separate lawsuits

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

SPARTA - The Kentucky Speedway scored two major legal victories Friday in what has been a running legal dispute with the city of Sparta and a group of residents.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed two lower-court rulings made in favor of the speedway by Gallatin County Circuit Court Judge Jay Bamberger, who also oversees Boone Circuit Court.

The cases dealt with how the racetrack was funded, and a thwarted attempt by the tiny city, which has a population of only 133, to annex the track.

A group of 13 Gallatin County residents had challenged the validity of $35 million in industrial-revenue bonds issued by the Gallatin County Fiscal Court used to help finance the $152 million speedway.

The residents claimed the county made errors when it issued the bonds and published a notice of the bond issue in the Gallatin County News.

Bond issues must be advertised and announced in local newspapers under state law.

But in a unanimous opinion written by Court of Appeals Justice R.W. Dyche, the court found nothing improper in the way bonds were advertised and issued.

Lawyer Richard Meyer, who represented the speedway, said the court's ruling did not surprise him.

"We've known from the outset that the bond financing was done according to law," Meyer said Friday. "And this decision validates our belief."

In the other case, Sparta had attempted to annex the speedway, which covers an area nearly four times as large as the city.

Dyche, the author of a second unanimous ruling, said the city did not follow the proper procedures set by the state's annexation laws.

"The city failed to comply, strictly or otherwise, with the applicable statutes," Dyche said.

Dyche went on to say the city showed "egregious disregard for the orderly statutory process."

"That may well be the understatement of the century," lawyer Mark Guilfoyle, also a speedway attorney, said of Dyche's comments.

Lawyers for the residents and the city could not reached to comment.


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