Valley Speedway in Grain Valley will remain open for the rest of its current season as the city asks the owner to sit down and work out a new permit to operate.
In a nearly six-hour meeting Thursday night, including a four-hour hearing, the Board of Aldermen voted to revoke the speedway’s conditional-use permit, effective Oct. 1. The board determined the speedway to have violated its conditional-use permit, including allowable noise levels.
The board also voted to have city staff sit down with the owner, Dennis Shrout, to revise the permit or come up with a new one. Both votes were unanimous.
“I think it (Thursday’s action) told him that the status quo cannot continue,” Mayor Mike Todd said Friday.
Todd stressed that aldermen have wanted to avoid closing the track and said otherwise they would have voted to revoke the permit immediately. The move gives the city and Shrout several months to work out a new permit before the 2015 season begins in April.
“It is our intent that a new permit be in place,” Todd said.
During the hearing, attorneys and witnesses went back and forth over the speedway’s history, noise levels and other issues governed by the permit, and the relationships between Shrout and the city. In the end, City Attorney Jim Cook told aldermen, it came down to clear violations of the permit and taking a common-sense approach to clear and open problem – the noise – in the city.
“It’s clear to me that we have a situation where Mr. Shrout doesn’t want to take the responsibility that he should take,” Cook told aldermen.
Shrout’s attorney, Bill Moore, countered that the permit set a noise level – 65 decibels at the edge of the property – but laid out no rules for how that’s measured, and he said the city hadn’t put any violations in writing.
“It’s the kind of thing municipalities often do when there’s a violation,” he said.
The permit requires Shrout, who has owned the track since 2008, to do a sound study every year, but Assistant City Administrator Ryan Hunt said even though the city asked him for one five times over the last four years, he never provided one until last month. A city study in 2010 showed noise above 65 decibels, and Shrout’s study showed him in compliance.
Cook dismissed Shrout’s study, pointing out that sound was recorded from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on a race day in May and then averaged, even though racing only occurred during some of that time. Racing usually start early in the evening and, Shrout said, typically ends before 10.
Cook said that means the study doesn’t pass the simple test of common sense.
“I think it’s manufacturing testimony to arrive at a result,” he said.
Todd said afterward that he didn’t buy that study either but said officials will try to work out with Shrout exactly how noise is to be measured and analyzed.
“That is something we need to do,” he said.
Shrout said there are challenges.
“I can’t meet it (the 65-decibel standard) the way they intend it to be taken. ... It can’t be done,” he said during the hearing.
Hunt said after the 2010 study Shrout took some steps – the quick fixes, he said – to address noise. He put in signs and trailers to blunt the noise. Shrout said the quietest classes of racecars go late in evening and he requires good mufflers.
“What is out there is the best we’ve come up with in today’s market,” he said.
The city has raised other concerns, too.
“Mr. Shrout had four or five simple rules to follow, and he’s had years to follow them,” Cook said, referring to some of the permit’s other requirements:
• Having a traffic control plan on file with the city. Shrout filed one last week. He said he assumed the previous owners had done that. “I assumed we were in compliance on traffic control,” Shrout said.
• Having a fire plan on file, something Shrout said he tried to submit last week.
• Giving the Police Department seven days’ notice for an event expected to draw 100 or more people. Shrout said 500 to 1,500 fans come on a typical race day – every Saturday from April through September, plus a few other dates – but Police Chief Aaron Ambrose said he couldn’t recall ever getting notice.
“Everybody knows when we race,” Shrout said.
• Shrout conceded that he might not have enough signs warning customers of the risk of flash floods – the track is in a low-lying area – but said he needs clarity from the city on that.