Officers and supporters of APEX Motor Club listen to speakers at Tuesday's hearing on a conditional use permit for the organization to build in Maricopa. Photo by Mason Cajellas

The Maricopa City Council voted Tuesday to permit a motorsports complex to move forward with the planning of a proposed private racetrack in Maricopa.

The conditional use permit, filed by Scottsdale-based Private Motorsports Group, was unanimously approved by the council after a sizable group of both residents and nonresidents offered their opinions on the matter at the meeting.

While most speakers, some donning yellow APEX Motor Club stickers on their chest, advocated in favor of the motorsports complex and its potential to aid in economic development in the city, others expressed concern with what they consider to be a hastily prepared project.

Maricopa resident Rich Vitiello of Cobblestone Farms, one of the neighborhoods closest to the proposed track, acknowledged his support for any economic boom within the city. However, he also voiced concern over what he considers to be an inadequate noise study conducted by the permit applicant.

“I’m not against it, I love it, I think it’s awesome,” Vitiello said. “But I have a big, big concern with a $33 million project that’s got a $100, $200 noise study. It’s a two-pager.”

Vitiello, a self-described “car guy,” went on to cite another noise study done for a similar racetrack in California that was 143 pages and, according to Vitiello, “costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods also attended the meeting and spoke on behalf of “a number of Maricopa residents and business owners,” who, he said, are also upset with how the project has been processed.

He argued his clients, too, are not necessarily against the racetrack but are upset with the rapid pace of its approval.

“We don’t think that the city has yet taken the steps it needs to, to make sure this is what you hope it might be,” Woods told the council.

Woods referred to a situation with another complex, Arizona Motorsports Park near Luke Air Force Base, where the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approved the park in 2001 and then revoked the permit in 2004 when nearby residents became annoyed by noise and traffic.

The speed of this approval for this project, he said, indicates the city may not have made proper considerations. He fears the city may make the same mistakes Maricopa County made.

Maricopa Mayor Christian Price responded to Woods’ assertion that the project was moving too fast by asking, “Is a year not a long enough to make a business wait to go through the process and reach a conclusion?”

To that, Woods said, it has barely been a year since the first announcement, and he feels a bare minimum amount of effort was made to gain public input.

Recently an awareness campaign named Speed Kills Maricopa started a Facebook page and began promoting on TV and social media with video commercials dramatically depicting the dangers and potential nuisance such a track would bring. The videos have reportedly appeared on cable TV stations.

Councilmember Vincent Manfredi praised the commercials for doing what they were designed to do – raise public awareness.

“It’s great because I haven’t gotten one call,” Manfredi said, provoking applause from the chamber. “In fact, I’ve gotten calls for the opposite.”

Furthermore, Councilmember Nancy Smith stressed the fact that the force behind the recent campaign is unknown.

“We don’t know who the client is; It’s hidden.” Smith said. “We can’t tell what the motivation is. That should leave you [Maricopa residents] to be concerned.”

Smith hinted the campaign could be directed by forces with interests outside of Maricopa.

Unsubstantiated reports have been made against a competitor looking to construct a similar, but considerably larger track in a nearby town.

Apex Motor Club is slated to build its private facilities on 280 acres of land situated north of State Route 238, west of Ak-Chin Southern Dunes golf course, near Ralston Road. The closest residential area, Acacia Crossing, is 3.4 miles from the proposed build site. Cobblestone Farms is half a mile farther east.