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Attesa

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

An organization in opposition to the planned private motorsports complex, Apex, filed campaign finance reports with the City of Maricopa after being threatened with nearly $13,000 in fines for failing to do so.

“I think it’s everyone’s right to do what my clients did and to circulate a petition sheet on a matter such as this.” — Tim La Sota, attorney for Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers

Attorney Tim La Sota, counsel for Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers, filed the reports with the city Jan. 26, nearly three months after the organization lost a legal challenge against the proposed racetrack. (See video of Apex plans.)

Despite losing the legal battle, La Sota said his clients are pleased.

“We’re very happy with the resolution, and obviously not paying any kind of fine,” La Sota said. 

 The organization mounted the legal challenge last year after city council approved a conditional use permit for the racetrack to move forward with the project, saying the decision should have been brought to voters on the November ballot.

The case made it all the way to the Arizona Supreme Court, which ultimately dismissed the complaint against the City and Apex.

City Attorney Denis Fitzgibbons said this conclusion was amicable and likely the best they could have hoped for.

“They filed the reports, and that’s what we asked them to do,” Fitzgibbons said. “So, from my reading of it, I think the matter is resolved.”

Fitzgibbons added, when it comes to civil matters such as this, it’s hard to say for certain the issue is 100 percent quashed. Based on the opposition’s response, though, he feels the matter is closed.

Despite the organization’s lack of response to the city’s initial inquiries about campaign finance reports, Fitzgibbons said, La Sota was very cooperative in seeking a resolution.

“I don’t believe Tim La Sota ever got any of the original notices, because I don’t think [Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers] was sending those notices on to Tim,” Fitzgibbons said. “Once the City Clerk turned it over to me, then [La Sota] responded immediately, so I do think they were legitimately trying to get it resolved.”

As for those who initially filed the complaint with the city, Fitzgibbons said he did not believe they would have any sort of independent right to pursue the case further. 

Lawyers from the firm Coppersmith and Brockelman, representing Private Motorsports Group, Apex’s parent company, initially filed the complaint with the city Oct. 30.

In the complaint, attorney Roopali Desai alleges the organization not only violated Arizona campaign finance laws, but also the organization “is clearly sponsored by Danrick Builders, LLC (“Danrick”), and /or its principal, Daniel Erickson.”

Erickson and his company – Danrick Builders – are seeking to build a similar, though much larger, motorsports complex in Casa Grande named Attesa. In a letter to Pinal Central, Erickson endorsed Apex’s opponents saying, “the bottom line is the future of Apex has a direct effect on the future of Attesa.”

La Sota claimed to have no knowledge of Erickson or Attesa being behind Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers, saying “I don’t even know what that [Attesa] is.”

He did admit to meeting Erickson in November but again said he did not have any knowledge of his potential involvement in any Apex opposition group.

The campaign finance reports submitted by La Sota do not directly indicate Erickson was a benefactor. However, they do show the $5,204 in funds they received were paid for by Sovereign Land Assets, LLC, a company that listed as principal agent Joseph Villasenor, someone with alleged ties to both Erickson and lawyers who represent another Apex-opposition complaint filed on behalf of Maricopa resident Bonita Burks. 

Though InMaricopa has not been able to uncover any direct ties between Villasenor and Erickson, it has been discovered Villasenor and Burks’ lawyer, former Arizona attorney general Grant Woods, were both involved in a legal battle involving the Phoenix Coyotes and the Scottsdale Polo Championship.

The PR firm hired by the Coyotes to assist in defeating a similar 2013 referendum attempt in Glendale is the PR firm currently representing Apex – Rose+Moser+Allyn Public & Online Relations. The firm eventually sued the Coyotes seeking $250,000 they claim was promised to the Scottsdale Polo Championship, which is run by Rose+Moser+Allyn.

Neither the chairman for Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers, Robert Rebich, nor its treasurer, David Prom, live in Maricopa. The organization’s Application for Referendum Petition show their mailing addresses to be in either Phoenix or Scottsdale respectively.

When asked whether he believed it was appropriate for non-residents to attempt to participate in the political process, La Sota said his clients were in the right.

“I think it’s everyone’s right to do what my clients did and to circulate a petition sheet on a matter such as this,” La Sota said. “You don’t have to be a resident of Maricopa to engage in those activities.”

Additionally, any parties responsible for paying the legal costs accrued by Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers were not disclosed in the campaign finance report, La Sota said, citing an Arizona Law that allows for the exclusion of such details.

Both La Sota and Fitzgibbons agree to the legitimacy of the laws application, thus likely ending the city’s legal battle with the organization, which La Sota claims will soon be formally disbanded.

The Burks’ case, however, remains to be decided with the Arizona Court of Appeals.

An opening brief for that case is scheduled for Feb. 20.                


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Attesa is a proposed motorsports facility west of Casa Grande.

Pinal County approved an addition to the county zoning code Aug. 2, allowing a proposed motorsports complex to move forward with a facility near Casa Grande.

The county Board of Supervisors approved the creation of a multi-purpose community master plan (MP-CMP) zoning district, which will ultimately allow contractors to begin the process of zoning applications for a proposed 2,500-acre recreational motorsports complex called Attesa.

“This does not approve [the Attesa project],” Pinal County Planning Manager Steve Abraham said.  “The actual zoning process is the one that actually approves the development standards.”

This “text amendment,” Abraham said, specifically creates a “new zoning category to address developments that are over 2,000 acres in size” and feature a central recreational component (such as a racetrack) and complimentary elements such as residential, commercial, industrial and public facilities.

“We’re talking ultra-large developments that really have a degree of gravity to them,” Abraham Said.

Though this amendment was a citizen initiative filed by law firm Snell and Wilmer on behalf of DRE Development – Attesa, the change will take effect across the county and would address similar proposals.

“At the end of the day we can use this for other projects like the Pinal Airpark (and) the amusement park that was thinking about going on in Casa Grande [sic],” Abraham said.

Pinal County Supervisor Anthony Smith of Maricopa expressed concern with the future approval process, asking if there was sufficient opportunity for public input and feedback.

“If this is a large, mega project, they certainly have communities either adjacent or bordering that area and may want to weigh in, but I don’t see an element of a public process,” Smith said.

Abraham clarified it would follow typical zoning processes, in terms of public notice and neighborhood meeting requirements.

Smith, though satisfied with the stated opportunity for public input, raised further concern with certain wordage within the amendment, in particular the use of the term “rural” as it pertains to certain designations within the new zoning district.

Smith motioned to move the decision to the Aug. 23 meeting to allow for further reconsideration of the amendment and its wordage. The motion was not seconded.

A motion to approve the amendment was made by Supervisor Todd House and seconded by supervisor Rios.

The Board approved the amendment with a 4 to 1 vote, Smith voting against the measure.

DRE Development hopes to build two 2.8-mile road courses at the facility along with a hotel, convention center and 6000-foot private airstrip. Estimated construction costs are currently around $310 million.

Elliott D. Pollack & Company analysis

Pinal County has high hopes for several projects promising many jobs. At least one could have a significant impact on Maricopa’s workforce.

Elliott D. Pollack & Company, known for its economic prognostications, produced an economic analysis of the plans for Attesa, a planned motorsports complex on 2,500 acres near Casa Grande that intends to include a hotel, conference center, driving club and other retail space along with racetracks. Its price tag is $1.1 billion.

The Pollack company completed the study last year. This month, it added a memo from senior economist Danny Court to Dan Erickson, member/manager of Danrick Builders, which intends to develop Attesa. The memo breaks down the employment the project could create in Pinal County communities.

The intended property is south of Interstate 8 between Montgomery and Bianco roads. The county has a public hearing related to the project scheduled for Wednesday.

Court said the Attesa project “is expected to create over 13,300 onsite jobs, which will provide Pinal County residents a significant opportunity for local employment.” Many of those are construction jobs, but more than 6,000 are expected to be permanent jobs.

For Casa Grande, that would be 4,900 part-time and full-time employees earning $88.7 million in wages. For Maricopa, the forecast number of employees is 1,537 earning $27.8 million.

The Pollack company predicted 61 percent of employees on the project would be from Pinal County.

“It will start with construction and then go from there,” county Economic Development Director Tim Kanavel said. “Jobs are going to be created, ongoing, and most of those people will live in Casa Grande, Maricopa, Eloy and Coolidge. The influx of new visitors and residents will create more jobs at restaurants, retailers and other consumer companies.”

Attesa has calculated a groundbreaking in the first quarter of 2018. Developers have experienced a slow process in getting appropriate zoning, however. The county Planning & Zoning Commission recommended approval of a text amendment that adds a citizen-initiated, multi-purpose community master plan (MP-CMP) Zoning District. At its June 21 meeting, the Board of Supervisors decided to delay a hearing on the issue until Aug. 2 because it was improperly agendized.

“Without this text amendment, we really can’t move forward in our zoning,” said Nick Wood, attorney from Snell and Wilmer, representing the developers.

“We’re essentially going to build a mini-city,” Erickson said in a press release from Attesa. “We’re going to welcome tech companies who need to research, develop and test, and people who have a passion for performance cars and driving them at speed, and guests who want to be entertained with uncompromised customer service. To provide the best experience possible, in all those areas, we’re going to need people. And most of them will be local, with the county.”

But Attesa has also been a shadow on the periphery of another planned motorsports complex in Maricopa. Apex Motor Club is planning a much smaller, private course only for club members on the northwest side of Maricopa. After the city council approved a conditional use permit, a petition drive was formed by Maricopa Citizens Protecting Tax Payers Political Action Committee to force it to a public vote. City Hall turned back the petitions, and that resulted in a lawsuit by the PAC.

Those heading the PAC are not residents of Maricopa, and former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods spoke on behalf of the “anonymous” opposition. The lawsuits have delayed work on the Maricopa project. Apex President Jason Plotke pointed the finger squarely at Attesa officials.

“Apparently, they believe their own project so insufficient that they cannot compete with ours,” he said at the time.

No documentation has been produced directly linking Attesa representatives with the Apex opposition.

Other projects that have been announced for the Casa Grande area are PhoenixMart (under construction), Lucid Motors (in development) and the proposed amusement park DreamPort Villages (in development).