Dennis Shrout said he believes he will have plenty of support tonight when the Grain Valley Board of Aldermen conducts a public hearing regarding possible revocation of Valley Speedway’s operating permit.
But the Speedway owner isn’t positive it will matter.
The Board of Aldermen could vote to revoke Valley Speedway’s conditional use permit based on its alleged non-compliance with an ordinance in the city zoning code that says the dirt racetrack can’t produce consistent noise levels exceeding 65 decibels – roughly the same level produced by normal conversation at 3 feet – at the edge of the property. The meeting is at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 711 Main St.
Valley Speedway received its permit in December 2003, and Shrout became owner in 2008. He also owns the nearby Valley MX motocross track, which along with Thunder Valley Sand Drags (owned by Jeff Sieg) were in use several years before Valley Speedway.
Meanwhile, the city’s population ballooned from 2,000 in 1990 to more than 5,000 in 2000 and 13,000 as of 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau – leading to several more residential areas within possible earshot of the track.
“The board will hear facts on the situation, they’ll vote eventually, whether it’s finished (today) or continued to another evening,” City Administrator Alexa Barton said. “Each side can call witnesses, and there will be an attorney present (not representing either side) to provide guidance.”
“It’s been a topic of conversation every year,” Barton said, adding that the city has received noise complaints like any other year, but no more than the usual.
The city’s community development committee had meetings last year in July and November to hear public comment, both of which crowded the Community Center. The committee recommended a possible change to the permit and encouraged the two sides to work out a compromise.
“We’ve done everything we told them we would do,” Shrout said, referring to the 20-foot high signage and numerous trailers placed around the track to buffer sound, as well as the mufflers he requires for all competing cars. “You can ask anybody: If they don’t want to buy a muffler or don’t have one, they go home. It’s cost me money in car count.
“The city hasn’t come up with one thing in the way of compromise.”
Shrout said the city has documents from Casey’s General Store stating how the speedway’s presence is a boost for its business. Also, he said he expects a representative from the O’Reilly’s auto parts store to be present to express how the speedway is a big reason that business opened a Grain Valley outlet.
The speedway recently hired a firm to conduct a sound study (with city staff present). Barton said the study showed Valley Speedway to be higher than the permitted decibel level – 100 decibels at some points, she said – but Shrout said it met the code based on EPA guidelines for averages.
“The place in the direction where people are complaining about the most, it registered the same whether we were racing or not,” Shrout said, adding that the study showed a difference of just 2/10 of a decibel for the same hours on a racing night and non-racing night.
Barton said she does remember some residents saying at a board meeting this year that they didn’t notice any engine noise and thought races weren’t happening on a certain night. Shrout corrected them and said there had been races.
Shrout said he believes the city is trying to revoke his permit in order to devalue and rezone the land for possible sale, citing an exchange a year ago among himself, the city and a wetlands developer.
The developer, David Flick of Terra Technologies, owns parcels of land along Sni-A-Bar Creek and had made known his possible interest in parcels along Blue Branch, which borders the Speedway property.
Barton said Flick asked the city to approach Shrout on Flick’s behalf to see if the land might be available. Flick said where lines of communication appear to have been crossed is that he was interested only in the small undeveloped portion along the creek, whereas the city inquired about the property for all the racetracks, which Shrout estimated to be worth at least $1 million since it is developed land not simply barren land in a flood plain.
“I know Dennis and his family,” Flick said. “Both us were raised in Eastern Jackson County. I’ve talked to him, though not necessarily about this. I understand where he’s coming from, and I understand the city’s view.
“No way do we want to take somebody’s land. If a piece is not for sale, it’s not for sale. The parcels we buy are two-to-three thousand an acre ... not developed area which involves changing how it’s used. There’s been no more discussion after that.”
Barton stated the city is not interested in buying any more land in that area.
“The city’s already got about 15 acres in the flood plain,” she said, referring to the football field and adjacent parking lot east of Valley Speedway.