City plans to pull ballot question
A Pinal County judge ruled Wednesday against the plaintiff in the last of two cases filed against the city and a company planning to construct a private racetrack in Maricopa.
Judge Robert Olson of the Pinal County Superior Court handed down the judgement, ruling against Rancho El Dorado resident Bonita Burks based on her argument having a weak legal standing.
Olson wrote, “The plaintiff lacks standing to challenge the issuance of the permit, since there is no evidence that the plaintiff will suffer any injury that is more substantial than suffered by the community at large.”
Burks’ complaint alleged the Apex Motor Club track would prohibit “full enjoyment” of her property due to potential noise, odor and traffic created by the track.
Her residence is more than five miles from the area in question, and is located on the opposing side of a major roadway, State Route 347, used by thousands of vehicles daily.
To that argument, Olson stated, “Plaintiff has not shown that any injury is more substantial than suffered by the community at large, let alone shown her injury is the same or similar to that suffered in the distinct area or neighborhood that is in close proximity to the proposed facility.”
In his opinion, Olson further acknowledged a sound study conducted by Private Motorsports Group, which, he said, “significantly challenges the plaintiff’s assertions.”
Burks did not respond to requests for comment.
Olson further rejected Burks’ arguments that an emergency ordinance (17-07), created by council to put referendums on the soonest possible ballot, was not an actual emergency.
“The Court finds that it is a matter of legislative discretion for the City Council to make its determination whether a qualifying circumstance warrants enactment of a provision with an emergency clause,” Olson wrote.
The ordinance was created soon after the first lawsuit was filed against the city in June.
Since it was ruled that Burks had no standing, the case is likely done with. However, on the chance an appeals court could waive his judgement, Olson offered a detailed, non-binding opinion on the subject of the permitting process as it relates to the New versus Old Zoning Codes. That opinion claims the city may have been wrong in granting the permit.
“The New Code did not reserve a right to PMG to obtain a use permit under the Old Code,” Olson wrote.
Olson claimed while the Old Zoning Code is a protected property right consistent with the Private Property Rights Protection Act, he found section 101.06(E) of the New Code “creates a particular exception to those rights, such as when seeking a use permit.”
Despite this opinion, city officials are considering this another victory. Earlier this week, Arizona Supreme Court denied an appeal by Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers, a group trying to force the permit decision to a referendum. The City is preparing to cancel the referendum.
“The Maricopa City Council has just taken action to rescind the Ballot Proposition on APEX,” Maricopa Mayor Christian Price wrote in an emailed statement.
Price further wrote that by canceling the referendum “we have saved the taxpayer $35,000,” and that the judgement solidifies “very big principles of good governance.”
Apex Vice President Matt Williams is elated with the decision and is happy the project can start to move forward.
“Our continued partnership with the City is coming to fruition,” Williams said. “From that perspective, we couldn’t be more excited and more thrilled.”
Williams and his colleagues are still determining what legal hurdles might still exists.
“Most of today has been focused on what happens next,” he said, “how quickly can we get started and what risk is still out there.”
Ground breaking most likely won’t occur until it is determined that all avenues for appeal have been exhausted by the opposition, in this case Burks.
Nonetheless, Williams looks forward to soon announcing plans for construction.