Tags Articles tagged with "Apex Motor Club"

Apex Motor Club

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

 

The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the City of Maricopa and Private Motorsports Group after a lawsuit by a resident.

Bonita Burks filed suit last year alleging a permit granted to PMG by the City for a private sports car recreation facility called Apex would cause her personal harm. Burks’ home in Rancho El Dorado is 5.2 miles east of the proposed racetrack. The decision was filed Monday.

The three-judge panel agreed with Pinal County Superior Court Judge Robert Olson that Burks did not present any evidence that there would be particular injury to her and therefore had no standing to sue.

“They agreed with us,” Mayor Christian Price said. “How are you being harmed in the middle of Rancho El Dorado?”

The judges also declined to waive the “standing” requirement as requested by Burks’ attorney, Timothy La Sota, who wanted to put the zoning actions of the city council before the judiciary.

“We, too, recognize that zoning is an important issue with potentially widespread impact,” Judge Garye Vazquez wrote for the court. “However, this specific zoning issue is restricted to Maricopa and stems from the transition between Maricopa’s old zoning code and new zoning code.  We, therefore, disagree with Burks that this case presents an issue of statewide importance that is likely to recur.”

The court also ruled the City and PMG are entitled to costs.

Though Maricopa had recently adopted a new zoning code, it granted PMG a permit for Apex Motor Club under the old zoning.

Price said the council was within its legislative rights, which the court affirmed.

“It was new zoning. There has to be a phasing period,” Price said. “With a big project, you don’t add it like that.”

He said the City may make that more clear in the future.

La Sota could not immediately be reached for comment.

In a resident’s lawsuit against the City of Maricopa and a sports-car club, both sides presented their cases to the Arizona Court of Appeals on Wednesday.

Bonita Burks sued the City and Private Motorsports Group after a permit was approved for Apex Motor Club. Apex is intended to be a private club for sports car enthusiasts, with a clubhouse, private racetrack and garages.

During oral arguments, the judges were trying to determine if Burks had legal standing to sue and, if not, whether the requirement should be waived. To show “standing,” Burks would have to prove she would be more impacted than the “community at large” by the potential noise, odor and traffic she complained of.

If the appeals court sides with Burks regarding her “standing,” it would open the legal case to the meat of the matter. That is, whether the City acted illegally in allowing Private Motorsports Group to obtain its permit under the old zoning code.

Pinal County Superior Court Judge Robert Olson has already written his opinion the City did not act correctly in that matter. That opinion, however, was not binding because it was an aside to his ruling Burks had no standing to sue.

The Apex site is at the northwest corner of State Route 238 and Ralston Road. Burks’ home is in Rancho El Dorado, 5.2 miles from the site.

For that reason, the City and Private Motorsports Group have argued Burks does not have standing to file suit. It was a point argued previously before Olson.

“Our argument is, she did not allege or establish at the hearing any facts of personalized injury,” said Roopali Desai of Coppersmith, Schermer & Brockelman, the law firm representing Private Motorsports Group.

Burks’ attorney, while arguing she could have standing because Rancho El Dorado is closer to the Apex site than several other subdivisions, sought to have the whole “standing” requirement waived.

“The zoning matter is a big deal in Maricopa,” said attorney Timothy La Sota, who took over Burks’ case late in the appeals process. He added the statewide concern with zoning issues qualified the case to have the “standing” requirement waived.

La Sota represented Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers in a previous suit against the City that also went before Judge Olson. That was a disagreement over whether the City had taken legislative action or administrative action in granting the permit. MCPT claimed it was legislative action that could be subject to referendum and thus placed on a ballot. The City claimed it was administrative action and not subject to referendum.

Olson ruled in favor of MCPT, but that ruling was overturned by the Court of Appeals in September. However, La Sota brought up that sore spot again during Wednesday’s arguments.

The City, he said, changed its actions to administrative “to get around the referendum” and was trying to do something similar by denying Burks’ standing in the case.

Desai argued the state sets an “incredibly high standard” for establishing standing, and for a reason. She rebuffed attempts by the judges to set up hypothetical situations, saying Burks might have standing if she had to drive SR 238 to work every day but that is not a fact in the case.

“She does not use 238 to access her subdivision,” Desai said.

She also noted facts not in the record from the lower-court case, that three master-planned communities, 1,000 homes, railroad tracks and some business properties lie between the Apex site and Burks’ home. She said a noise study and traffic study refuted attempts to claim personal injury.

La Sota said taking the appellee’s “linear” approach to judging impact of the space between was separating the case from the “true standard” of determining personal injury.

The judges pushed La Sota on the definition of “community at large,” saying the attorney had not supplied evidence Burks is being personally impacted more than the rest of Maricopa “other than saying she is more affected because I say she is.”

The Court of Appeals, Division II, in Tucson has taken the arguments under advisement. Both sides now await its decision. If the court waives the “standing” requirement, the City and Private Motorsports Group would have to again defend the City’s action on permits and zoning.

Though City Attorney Denis Fitzgibbons was present at Wednesday’s hearing, he did not make a presentation to the judges.

Apex Motor Club, owned by Private Motorsports Group, wants to open a private track in Maricopa.

A lawsuit against the City of Maricopa over its zoning approval for Apex Motor Club is still slogging through the appeals court. Thursday, the court ruled on a transcript filing that was in dispute.

Until a decision is reached by the Court of Appeals Division 2 in the case of Bonita Burks v. City of Maricopa, Private Motorsports Group will keep its Apex plans idling. PMG spokesperson Mike Scerbo simply said there were no new developments.

“It’s the City’s practice to not elaborate on legal matters,” spokesperson Jennifer Brown said.

However, the new attorney for Burks said his client is awaiting a decision on his request for an oral argument. The timing of that is unknown.

Timothy La Sota, who previously represented the committee Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers in its failed actions against the City of Maricopa and Apex, took over Burks’ appeal from Grant Woods and Michael Riikola in April. His arguments for Burks are similar to those he made for MCPT, a case which was also first heard by Superior Court Judge Robert Olson.

In September, Olson ruled Burks did not have standing to challenge the issuance of the permit because she could not prove her claim that potential noise, odor and traffic from the motorsports track would cause her injury. Noise studies conducted for PMG indicated nearby trains were louder than sportscars would be.

“We have a situation where a Superior Court judge has found the City’s actions to be unlawful but that Ms. Burks does not have standing to challenge the unlawful actions,” La Sota said. 

That reference is to Olson’s addendum in his ruling against Burks, a non-binding opinion that also suggested the City was wrong to grant the permit. That is the crux of Burks’ appeal, which was filed in November.

Riikola, one of Burks’ previous attorneys who took the case to the Court of Appeals, was granted extensions for filing briefs in April. Soon after, La Sota applied to be substitute counsel in place of Riikola and Woods.

May 5, La Sota requested an oral argument.

Yet to decide on that request, Presiding Judge Gary Vasquez did rule on a debate about the transcript Thursday.

La Sota had filed a copy of the transcript from the September hearing with the appellate court. The City claimed the filing did not abide by the rules, and “absent portions of a record supports the trial court’s ruling,” something Burks’ counsel denied.

Vasquez struck Burks’ transcript filing. It is a small skirmish in a battle that delays any potential development of the property on the northwest corner of State Route 238 and Ralston Road.

La Sota’s earlier effort with MCPT to get the zoning matter on a ballot for a public vote was denied by the Arizona Supreme Court. Meanwhile, in the second suit, Burks’ previous counsel had argued the City had misapplied the zoning code in granting a conditional use permit.

“The City has done everything in its power to squelch our efforts to give the public a voice through a referendum vote on the City’s illegal actions,” La Sota said. “We will keep fighting to vindicate Ms. Burks’ rights as a citizen of Maricopa to have her elected city representatives actually follow the law.”