By Roland Murphy for Arizona Builder’s Exchange
In recent months Pinal County has become a planning hotbed for all things motorsports, but it seems one group wants to throw a wrench into the works, and the allegations of shady dealings are starting to rev up.
In April, Apex Motor Club won approval for a conditional use permit to develop 280 acres into an “automotive country club” for car enthusiasts. When complete, the motor club will feature a four-mile, multi-configuration asphalt road course, a 12KSF clubhouse, 12KSF multi-purpose building, kart facility and track, tuning shop, fuel and concierge service, and 200 auto storage spaces or “car condos” ranging from 600-to-1,800SF.
However, last week opposition group Maricopa Citizens Protecting Tax Payers Political Action Committee submitted more than 1,100 signatures calling for a voter referendum on the proposal. The group requested and was granted permission to file its petitions last Friday, when Maricopa City Hall is usually closed. The petition application was applied for last month and called for 491 signatures to require a referendum, according to a report on the PinalCental website.
Prior to Maricopa Planning and Zoning’s approval of the conditional use permit in April, the commission received a letter of opposition from some residents and heard an argument by former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods opposing the project. The opposition was primarily centered around a noise report submitted as part of the consideration by Apex owner, Private Motorsports Group, which Woods stated was insufficient. However, prior to the commission’s unanimous vote, Commissioner Brian Joyce, an architect, disagreed, saying the report was, “Very complete.”
Woods said at the time he represented local opponents to the Apex project, but declined to identify his clients.
Maricopa Citizens Protecting Tax Payers is chaired by Robert Rebich of Phoenix. Rebich and the group have drawn criticism from the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce, among others, for their attempts to throttle down the Apex plan.
In a statement issued last week and published by inMaricopa, the Chamber expressed its support for Apex and said, “Unfortunately, a referendum campaign is being mounted to oppose the APEX Motor Club by a committee – ‘Maricopa Citizens Protecting Taxpayers’ – whose officers do not reside in Maricopa.
“The Maricopa Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors enthusiastically supports the APEX Motor Club and we encourage all Maricopans to do the same.”
Jason Plotke, Private Motorsports president, pulled no punches in identifying whom he thinks is responsible for the referendum petition and attempts to slow the Apex Development: Officials and supporters of the proposed Attesa Motorsports Center and Mixed-Use project in Pinal County.
Attesa’s proposed development dwarfs Apex’s planned facility. The 2,510-acre proposal calls for two separate road courses, a karting track, a driver experience center and a multi-surface racing and event area, along with a private airport with a 6,000-foot-long runway to enable patrons to fly in and out. Attesa also will include residential, hospitality and commercial uses.
An article on inMaricopa cited Plotke and said, “Rebich, (Plotke) said, is just the ‘henchman’ for the Snell & Wilmer law firm, lobbyist Joe Villasenor and Attesa officials. Plotke said he had already heard from mutual acquaintances that Attesa was intent on stopping the APEX complex. Attesa also did not respond to inquiries.”
Plotke also cast doubt on the validity of the signature drive, telling Pinal Central, “We heard from multiple citizens that people circulating the petition were telling them, ‘If you support the motor club, please sign.’”
He told inMaricopa he does not see Apex as a competitive threat to Attesa. “We’re just one small component of what they’re attempting to do,” he said. “And they need to look after their own project. They don’t have zoning yet.”
The petition signatures are currently under review for validation.
In a move that will likely throw fuel onto a rapidly heating situation, Apex released a statement following the filing for a referendum. As published on inMaricopa it reads:
Led by controversial Phoenix lobbyist Joe Villasenor, the outsiders trying to slow our new automobile country club in Maricopa have sunk to a new low. Unable to find a single Maricopa resident to serve as Chairman or Treasurer of their campaign committee, Villasenor, likely on behalf of a similar project in Casa Grande, hired paid petition circulators to misrepresent and in some cases lie about Apex.
They did so in order to try and force a public vote on the project. Apparently, they believe their own project so insufficient that they cannot compete with ours. Whether Villasenor, Dan Erickson, Grant Woods and the law firm of Snell and Wilmer will continue their shameless, selfish ways and go to any lengths to challenge the City Council’s decision remains to be seen.
None of us should be surprised if they again try to waste Maricopa’s time and money seeking only to benefit themselves and deny the new business and tourism Apex will mean for the community.
Finally, we would like to thank the overwhelming support we have received in Maricopa, from Mayor Price to the City Council to our closest neighbors. We were excited about making the decision to invest in Maricopa. We are even more so after the tremendous reception.
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