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Apex Motor Club

Noah Kell, 3, and Ayden McCracken, 3, check out an Apex Motor Club sports car. Submitted photo

The children from Baby Fox Academy received a special visit from Apex Motor Club today. As part of the summer curriculum, the preschoolers have been learning about different modes of transportation.

“We like to invite our community members to be involved in our preschool program,” said owner and director Laurie McCracken. “It’s very important for our children to see all the different things that make our community great. It’s also important to give our community members the opportunity to have an impact on the children in our program, to show them all the different possibilities there are for their future.”

The preschoolers squealed in excitement upon seeing the cars parked just outside their preschool’s front door this morning. The children were able to sit inside the various models. They peered in awe when being shown one car’s engine and giggled when they heard the engines roar.

“Bringing experiences like this to children in our program is one of my favorite parts of running a preschool,” McCracken said. “Watching the wonderment and inquisition that these children exhibit in learning new things is amazing.”

Baby Fox Academy is a state-licensed, in-home preschool in operation three years. It is owned and operated by Laurie and Matt McCracken. Laurie is a former elementary school teacher of over 20 years and holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary ed and a master’s in early literacy.

SR 238 may get a 16-inch water main. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Tuesday evening the Maricopa City Council will examine the extension of a 16-inch water main down State Route 238 west of Maricopa.

In a three-way agreement, the water main will be extended one mile from its present location at Smith-Enke Road and SR 347 by Global Water Resources. Then the City of Maricopa will extend the line another three miles west along SR 238 with the goal of serving the new Apex Motor Club location. The cost of the line is estimated to be about $750,000 per mile, possibly more.

Global will also pay for the upsizing of the water main along the city’s three-mile extension from 12-inch to 16-inch pipe.

While the intention of the line is not just to serve Apex but the entire growing region, Apex will kick in $1 million toward the new water line.

“Global Water’s involvement is we have a water line improvement that we can make out in that vicinity,” said Ron Fleming, CEO of Global.

Fleming said extending their 16-inch trunk line will improve water pressures and services to residents and businesses already in the area. The line extension will connect in the Estrella Gin area, near the location of the new fire department. The City also has the Estrella Gin business park, that is a 50-plus-acre, city-owned parcel just west of the intersection of Edison Road and Roosevelt Avenue.

“You want to loop waterlines where ever you can,” Fleming said. “Better pressure, better flow, better water quality. We’re going to extend our line down 238 and into Estrella Gin. It provides better system capacity at the intersection of Estrella Gin Road and 238. From there we can better service any future development coming along 238. That includes Apex itself.”

Fleming said in the future any developer along 238 in the area can “grab ahold of our system there and extend it out for their needs.”

Global Water has invested about $40 million in Maricopa’s water system over the past three or four years, according to Fleming.

“We’re happy to do it. All projects that are necessary to provide Global service for our customers and keep up with the growth that Maricopa is experiencing. Apex is just the next great community project,” Fleming said.

One important factor in Maricopa’s growth is Global’s assured water supply, which is necessary before construction can even be considered, if the project needs water service.

“We are happy to work with Apex and the city to ultimately develop a utility solution that works and let that project move forward. This water line is a component of that,” Fleming said.

The water line agreement is on the consent agenda for Tuesday’s city council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

Race track readied for private club’s membership

Apex members have been able to open up their sports cars on the new, private track. Photo by Jim Headley

Opening day of the Apex Motor Club in Maricopa is inching closer.

March 10, construction crews finished a non-stop asphalt-laying process to complete the seamless surface of the race track at 22408 N. Ralston Road.

The massive $40 million project was only on paper for the past three years. Matt Williams, vice-president and co-founder of the Apex Motor Club, said on the first day the track was completed, “This is kind of our ‘field of dreams’ moment. It feels pretty good. I had an exciting drive to work this morning. I couldn’t wait to get here.”

He said the morning of March 11, he wasn’t sure just how many times he traveled on the course. He wasn’t up to speed in his 2016 Porsche as the track was still being worked on in spots.

“I’ve been around it quite a few times actually,” he said. “We had about 15 guys out here this morning to check it out.”

For Phase 1 of the track, Williams said the 2.3-mile road course has 12 turns on 140 acres.

“And we have another 140 acres just to the north that will allow us to continue our expansion. It will be three tracks, but it will have the ability to be combined to one that will be 4.2 miles. It’s very long,” he said.

Paving Apex involved an echelon method.

“So, there are no seams,” Williams said. “There’s not a seam on the asphalt anywhere. It was three pavers side-by-side to get the 40-foot width.”

The Apex track is a road course but it’s a fast road course, according to Williams. Speeds might reach 160 mph in a special car on the long straightaway.

“A lot of that is going to depend on what kind of a car you’re driving,” he said. “We have members with open-style, Indy-type cars, vintage cars and modern stuff. They all do different things on a road course like this. Some cars might do 160 while others just aren’t capable of going that fast.”

The unique features of the Apex track are the long 3,400-foot straightaway, elevation changes, the bus stop chicane and turn 6 is slightly banked and on camber.

The track is touted as the longest in Arizona. Williams said there are some “club tracks” as long and even longer. He said there is one near Las Vegas that is 7.5 miles. One in Chicago is over 4 miles, and one outside Palm Springs is just over 5 miles.

Maricopa’s Apex track is a membership track, a private club people join for the use of the facilities. Car condos will be constructed in “Gasoline Alley” fashion to house up to 30 cars inside each 300-by-50-foot building for those willing to pay for the privilege.

A clubhouse will be built at the track, complete with a restaurant and pool. The concept of Apex is to turn the sport of driving into a commodity, much like what has been done with the sport of golf.

“Where you can get in and get out in four or five hours and you’re done with it,” Williams said. “We thought we might be onto something. My business partner and I both have kids and we have other things that happen in life, like kids, sports and work. We thought if we could get something that is close to everybody, where they could get in and get out and you don’t have to be gone for an entire weekend to get your car-guy fix, that we could probably build a business out of it. That’s what we did. There are not very many of these.”

Private Motorsports Group, which owns Apex, and the City of Maricopa had to deal with two lawsuits since 2017 over city zoning for the project. Both cases were ultimately dismissed by the Arizona judiciary but delayed the project. In the middle of all that stress, Apex President Jason Plotke said, “It’s just been a very welcoming and enjoyable experience.”

Next for Apex is the construction of the car condos over the next two months. Then the project can start adding the second phase track expansion to the north and the clubhouse.

Williams told members the track will be “fully up and running in April.”

“We’re going to do a ribbon cutting and some other things – but we’re close, real close,” he said.


This story appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

Matt Williams' Porsche tries out the new track at Apex Motor Club in Maricopa. Photo by Jim Headley

A lawsuit against the City of Maricopa and Private Motorsports Group was denied a hearing by Arizona Supreme Court.

Plaintiff Bonita Burks, represented by attorney Tim La Sota, filed a petition for review with the high court Aug. 14. The Supreme Court denied hearing the case March 5.

The case, Bonita Burks v. City of Maricopa, et al., alleges the city inappropriately granted a permit to Private Motorsports Group to build Apex Motor Club in an area that would cause her harm. Burks claimed in court filings Apex Motor Club had potential noise and traffic issues not properly considered in city reports.

The suit delayed the construction of the APEX Motor Club track in Maricopa by at least 18 months.

The original case was initially filed July 19, 2017, when Burks was still represented by attorney Grant Woods. At the Superior Court level, Judge Robert Olson ruled against Burks, who then filed in the appeals court. During the appeals process, La Sota became Burks’ primary counsel.

La Sota had previously represented Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers, an out-of-town group that sued the City over the Apex approval. That case, too, reached the Arizona Supreme Court, where it was rejected for review.

The property in dispute is at the northwest corner of State Route 238 and Ralston Road. Apex is currently under construction, with asphalt recently laid over the new track.

“We are just happy that all this silliness is over with,” said Matt Williams, vice president and co-founder of Apex Motor Club. “It was a lot to manage but thankfully the good guys won. It’s been a long three years.”

La Sota did not respond to a request for comment.

 

A variety of Caterpillar equipment moves dirt on the large parcel that is planned to be Apex Motor Club.

As Apex Motor Club begins to rise out of 278 acres on the northwest corner of State Route 238 and Ralston Road, Club members have specific expectations for the private racetrack.

Joe Rueda of Scottsdale drives a BMW M3 as a dedicated racecar and a Porsche as his street car.

He has been involved with Apex Motor Club since Jason Plotke, Matt Williams and Jim Beatty first started talking about the idea. Rueda became a member as soon as the club officially formed three years ago.

“We would drive on other racetracks, and it was so much fun, but it was so far away,” he said. The site in Maricopa, he said, was perfect.

“You can’t drop a racetrack in the middle of a residential area,” Rueda said, “so the land in Maricopa was perfect and the size was perfect.”

There are three fundamentals club members will expect from Apex, said Rueda, whose car enthusiasm began with his childhood Matchbox collection.

1. One is visceral connection. He bought his first car two years before he could legally drive it and learned how to maintain and fix it. The experience of driving a car, tinkering with it to improve its handling and then driving it again to see if the tinkering helped is an integral part of a private track.

2. Drivers also want a course designed for car people by car people. Apex is expected to be a place where they interact with their cars in a way they cannot on the street. Rueda said today’s sports cars far exceed what drivers can do with them on a public road. With so much automatic response now, he said, the automotive industry is taking away the driving experience in day-to-day life.

3. The most important aspect of a car club, he said, is the camaraderie with other enthusiasts and being able to compare experiences. Many of the friends he has made over the years have come through the car culture.

Rueda said the positive response the project received from City Hall and from the residents was fortifying when the legal opposition arose. “It made it easier to plow through,” he said. “If [the City] had waffled a little, I don’t know if we would have had the confidence to keep on going.”

Plotke, who is president of Private Motorsports Group, said the plan is to open Apex “early next year.”

“We’re not developers that are going to move on to the next city and sell this,” Plotke said. “We want to have our kids and their kids work here and have something that a lot of people can enjoy for a long period of time.”

Plotke said Apex intends to be involved in the community and involve the community in the facility, such as police training. Even beyond that, Rueda said philanthropy is important to all the members of the club. He expects that to become evident in Maricopa.



This story was published in part in the December issue of InMaricopa.

The City of Maricopa helped Apex Motor Club break ground at 22408 N. Ralston Road. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

 

Three years ago, Jason Plotke and Matt Williams came to Maricopa to look at land for a potential private racetrack.

Thursday, they broke ground on the $33 million project.

“We stood out here three years ago and saw some farmland, and here we are today building a racetrack,” Plotke said. “That’s pretty darn cool if you ask me.”

Two years ago, as Private Motorsports Group, they publicly announced their plans to build Apex Motor Club on 278 acres they purchased as Enterprise 238 LLC. On the northwest corner of State Route 238 and Ralston Road, the property was envisioned as a racetrack, clubhouse, garage condominium and karting complex at a cost of $33 million.

A year ago, Private Motorsports Group had a city use permit but was also battling two anti-Apex entities in the courts. One lawsuit reached the state Supreme Court, where it was denied. The second has had a petition pending before the Supreme Court since August.

The legal battle took a toll and was something “we weren’t sure we’d ever recover from,” Plotke said. “We weren’t sure if we’d be standing here.”

He and Williams were pleasantly surprised by the positive response they received from City Hall for the project from its conception.

“I think it was three years ago Jason and Matt came and sat down with me,” Mayor Christian Price said. “They said, ‘We have this idea and we want to talk to you about it. What do you think?’ And I kind of remember the cringing look on their faces as though they were going to get this, ‘I don’t think we want you here.’ I don’t know if I surprised them or not, but I said, ‘That’s a great idea. When are you starting? We can do that tomorrow.’ I think they laughed at me.”

Making clear he had no hand in bringing Apex to Maricopa, new City Manager Rick Horst said his staff would stay a step ahead of the developers to make sure all permitting is correct.

“I feel like this is a catalytic project,” Horst said. “I feel the need for speed.”

Plotke, who is president of Private Motorsports Group, said the plan is to open Apex “early next year.”

“It almost brings me tears to stand here with all of you and share this moment with all this going on,” Plotke said Thursday morning, gesturing at active dirt-moving equipment on the Apex site. “We’re not developers that are going to move on to the next city and sell this. We want to have our kids and their kids work here and have something that a lot of people can enjoy for a long period of time.

“We want to be a vibrant part of the community.”

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

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.”