Lexington Center Corp. asks judge to rule in dispute with R.J. Corman Railroad

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comJune 28, 2013 

The Lexington Center Corp. asked state and federal judges this week to make decisions in a legal dispute with R.J. Corman Railroad Co. stemming from a dinner train that has not yet come to fruition.

On Wednesday in Fayette Circuit Court, the Lexington Center Corp. asked the court to determine a date by which the dinner train must begin and resolve other issues regarding a 2010 lease with R.J. Corman, according to court documents filed by the Lexington Center Corp.

"We regret having to take this action, but we made every effort we could to resolve it without going to the courts," Austin Mehr, the attorney representing the Lexington Center Corp., said Friday.

Mehr declined to comment further.

David Irvin, the attorney representing R.J. Corman, declined to comment Friday.

In 2010, the Lexington Center Corp. leased property to R.J. Corman Railroad Co. for the purpose of offering a dinner train excursion, according to court documents filed by the Lexington Center. The train was to depart from downtown Lexington, take passengers to Frankfort or Midway and feed them along the way, then bring them back.

Under the lease, the Lexington Center Corp. would get $1 a year as a base rent and a portion of revenues earned through the dinner train operations. The excursions would arrive and depart from a rail spur built by Corman, according to court documents.

The spur extends east from the Corman Lexington rail yard, running beneath a bridge on Oliver Lewis Way and onto a parking lot owned by the Lexington Center.

Court documents allege that Corman built a glass-walled building on the spur to house an antique steam locomotive, called "Old Smoky," that once operated in China.

The Lexington Center is seeking a declaratory judgment in Fayette Circuit Court regarding, among other things, the date by which R.J. Corman has to begin the dinner train, whether the construction and continued existence of the glass-walled building is permitted under the lease, whether R.J. Corman is obligated to pay additional rent, whether the lease is void and whether Corman has defaulted on the lease.

The Lexington Center also seeks an injunction directing R.J. Corman to remove the building.

In a federal lawsuit filed in May, R.J. Corman Railroad Co. contended that Lexington Center wants to shut down the spur but that the Lexington Center can't deprive Corman of use of the spur without the "authority and approval of the Surface Transportation Board." That board is an arm of the U.S. Department of Transportation, which regulates railroad rates, services and transactions.

On Thursday in U.S. District Court, the Lexington Center filed a motion asking a federal judge to dismiss the May lawsuit filed by R.J. Corman Railroad. If the federal judge doesn't dismiss the lawsuit, the Lexington Center asks that a judge stay the federal lawsuit pending a decision in the state court.

"Corman had notice that LCC intended to pursue enforcement of the lease terms," the Lexington Center said in federal court documents.

"LCC believes that Corman is forum-shopping and in so doing is hoping to delay the issuance of an adverse state court decision."

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter:@vhspears

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