Attorneys for the two sides in the dispute over noise complaints at the Valley Speedway presented starkly different facts and interpretations of those facts at a packed hearing Thursday night.
The Grain Valley Board of Aldermen was considering whether to revoke the racetrack’s permit to operate. At press time, aldermen had heard four hours of testimony and were about to take public comments, then go into closed session to discuss the issue and then possibly vote. (The Examiner invites citizens who spoke to post comments on our Facebook page.)
“It’s clear to me that we have a situation where Mr. Shrout doesn’t want to take the responsibility that he should take,” City Attorney James Cook told aldermen in his concluding remarks, referring to owner Dennis Shrout.
Cook said the city has repeatedly raised concerns about noise and other issues such as having fire evacuation and traffic-flow plans on file, and he said the issue before the board was narrow – has Shrout violated the terms of his conditional-use permit? – not broader issues such as the speedway’s economic impact on the city.
“It’s not about David vs. Goliath. ... It’s about compliance,” he said.
Shrout’s attorney, Bill Moore, said there were broader concerns.
“This is more than just technical issues that we’re dealing with,” he said. “We’re dealing with the livelihood of an individual.”
Moore also said the city’s permit says sound cannot exceed 65 decibels at the edge of the property but stressed that it doesn’t give any rules or guidance on how that’s calculated.
Shrout, Assistant City Administrator Ryan Hunt and others testified, questioned by Cook and Moore. The attorneys and witnesses presented starkly different perspectives on the same developments. The city issued a permit, to a previous owner, in 2003. Complaints about noise go back years, including before Shrout bought the raceway in 2008, but he said the city officials never raised that concern when he met with them while be was considering buying it.
The city says he’s never done the annual study required under the permit – until two months ago – despite repeated promises. Shrout said he did a study a few years ago but never got the results. His study in May shows no sound violation – though Cook said that study didn’t pass the common-sense test in that it averaged noise levels over several hours, including hours when there was no racing.
“Mr. Shrout had four or five simple rules to follow, and he’s had years to follow them,” Cook said.
Moore repeatedly emphasized that the city never put Shrout on notice, in writing, about noise and other violations.
“There’s proper procedure and common sense that ought to be followed when you’re talking about someone’s livelihood,” Moore said.
The city had a noise study done in 2010. It showed the speedway to be in violation of the decibel limit and made suggestions. Shrout said he’s addressed the noise issue since that time.
“We just did it in an attempt to be a good neighbor,” he said.
He’s put up signs and surrounded the track with trailers. The least noisy class of racecars are raced last in the evening, and races usually are over between 9:30 and 10. Racers have to use mufflers.
“If you come to the racetrack and don’t have a muffler, you will not race,” he said.