Parties involved in a lawsuit against the City of Maricopa and planned private racetrack Apex Motor Club offered their opinions Thursday about the recent court ruling against the City.
Representatives from Apex’s parent company, Private Motorsports Group, and the City both expressed frustration with the Pinal County Court ruling. Neither was overly discouraged.
Mayor Christian Price said the city is moving forward and will consider every legal option available.
“I think certainly we’re disappointed, but we’ll look at our options, including appeal,” Price said.
Wednesday, Judge Robert Olson ruled the City’s action in approving a conditional use permit for Apex was legislative and not administrative and, therefore, subject to referendum. If necessary, the election is in November and is mail-in, with the ballot issue labeled Prop. 418.
The city is taking a cautious approach, preparing for the worst but hoping for the best, Price said. Their plan is to simultaneously initiate and follow the appeal process while they also prepare for the election.
“We’re doing both at the same time so we’ll be in compliance either way,” Price said.
Price further expressed frustration with the ideological contradictions of the organization that filed the suit – Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers.
“It’s terribly ironic and frankly I think it’s a little deceptive to the Maricopa citizen and to the voting public,” Price said. “I think it’s unfortunate that they’re going to pretend that they’re protecting the taxpayers in one fashion, but then spend upwards of $30,000 [on an election] that the taxpayer, by law, has to pay for.”
Public support for the Apex project has been seen on social media despite the lawsuits. During public hearings prior to the City’s issuing of the questioned permit, very few individuals spoke against the project.
Apex Vice President Matt Williams said a judgment like this was always a possibility and they are prepared to take the appropriate legal actions that will ensure the success of the project. The City of Maricopa has shown APEX overwhelming support, he said, and this ruling has not swayed them in the slightest.
“The one thing we’re confident of is our support from the city,” Williams said. “And we are 100 percent committed to seeing this through in Maricopa.”
Wednesday’s court ruling won’t automatically direct the matter to a referendum. Instead, it only overturns the city’s denial of the plaintiff’s Petition for Referendum, ordering the City Clerk’s Office to forward the petitions to the Pinal County Recorder. A 5-percent “random sample” of the signatures will be verified, and, depending on the outcome, the county will decide whether the matter will move to the ballot.
A second lawsuit was recently filed against the City and PMG, this time by Maricopa resident Bonita Burks.
The lawsuit cites much of what is in the previous suit, though it further challenges an ordinance (17-07) created by the city in response to MCPT’s petition for referendum. If forced to a referendum, the ordinance says the matter must be directed to the soonest possible election. That ordinance puts the pending election on the Apex matter this year rather than November 2018.
Hearing dates have not yet been scheduled for the second suit.
Neither MCPT President Robert Rebich nor Burks has returned requests for comment.