District 150 Sues Expo Gardens In Land Dispute

Peoria Public Schools has filed a lawsuit against Expo Gardens over its continued use of property.

The lawsuit was filed in Peoria County Circuit Court Wednesday.

The District has been using Expo property for Northmoor Primary School’s parking lot, bus driver and athletic event parking at Richwoods High School and school bus access from Northmoor Road to the District bus barn. The District, in exchange, has made Richwoods Stadium available to Expo Gardens at no charge during its Heart of Illinois Fair.

The District claims it has rights to the property in perpetuity as outlined in a deed filed in 1955.

District 150 officials say, at the request of Expo Gardens, the two sides began discussions in 2014 toward the District’s continued use of the property. D150 claims since the spring of 2014, Expo has threatened to cut off District 150’s access to and use of the properties on Saturday, June 6.

District 150 claims it has offered to purchase the properties from Expo Gardens at their appraised value, but Expo Gardens will only offer a rental arrangement at rates the District considers being far in excess of market values.

“In practical terms, with the decline in the popularity of the Heart of Illinois Fair which has occurred over the years, Expo Gardens is now seeking a new stream of income to finance its own operations at taxpayer expense,” said District 150 Chief Legal Officer Rick Rettberg.

“District 150 has always expressed a willingness to continue to negotiate, but Expo’s threat to bar District use of the properties¬† would create major disruptions in District bus operations in the use of Northmoor Primary School by its children, their parents, the school staff, and the general public. While District 150 has offered several fair proposals to resolve this dispute, Expo Gardens’ position has remained utterly inflexible.”

Circuit Court Judge James Mack issued a temporary restraining order June 4 allowing the District to continue using Expo property, but not the bus access from Northmoor Road. Buses must now go through the Richwoods parking lot and school officials say that’s unsafe.

The two sides will be back in court June 12 as the District requests a preliminary injunction to allow its use of the property while its lawsuit makes its way through the courts.

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