Mediation on Kosciusko County Fairgrounds race track dispute yields no solution

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("My Trusty Gavel" by Brian Turner, CC BY 2.0)

After only one attempt at mediation, it appears the two sides involved in the race track dispute at the Kosciusko County Fairgrounds are headed back to court.

A mediation session between the Kosciusko County Community Fair Inc. and four homeowners on Friday in the Columbia City office of attorney John W. Whiteleather Jr. did not result in a compromise between the two parties.

In a final report to Kosciusko County Circuit Court dated Friday, Whiteleather wrote that “a settlement had not been achieved” and that his “appointment as mediator should be terminated.”

The mediation came a day after the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld Judge Michael Reed’s preliminary injunction prohibiting motorized racing at the fairgrounds while the lawsuit by the homeowners continues.

The dispute arose after the Fair board began allowing motorized racing in recent years despite a 28-year-old agreement prohibiting it.

On June 27, 1989, nine original homeowners filed a complaint against the Kosciusko County Fair Association Inc. after a dispute arose regarding the operation of an automobile racetrack on the Fair’s property. As part of the settlement of the original homeowners’ lawsuit, on July 18, 1990, the Fair executed a restrictive covenant limiting use of the racetrack. The restrictive covenant provided that after Aug. 11, 1990, the Fair shall not use its property for motorized racing except for recreational and/or fairground activities other than motorized racing.

On May 2, 2018, homeowners filed a complaint seeking to enforce the restrictive covenant and to prevent the Fair from conducting motorized races on its property.

Fair board officials have said that resuming motorized racing would help make the fairgrounds more profitable.

Elkhart Superior Court II Judge Stephen R. Bowers was appointed the special judge in the case in July. He was the seventh judge to be handed the case after Reed granted the Fair’s motion on June 12 for a change of judge and five others recused themselves from it.

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