A proposed multi-purpose racetrack in St. Peters didn’t make it to the finish line amid concerns about noisy engines and fears about lowered property values in nearby subdivisions.
The city’s Board of Aldermen voted down a request for a special use permit that would allow a multi-purpose race track on June 23 after residents of nearby subdivisions made their own detailed case against it using their own experts.
The board voted 6-1 against the special use permit needed for the track to become reality. Alderman Patrick Barclay [Ward 4] cast the lone vote in favor of the proposal, and Alderman Dave Thomas [Ward 1] was absent.
More than 50 residents attended the board meeting from the Turnberry Bluffs Villas, Braewood and Ellington Place subdivisions, located as close as 4,000 feet largely southeast of the proposed track.
About a half-dozen residents spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, urging aldermen to turn down the permit. The noise from go-kart and motorcycle engines and racing and other activities would negatively impact their quality of life, they said. Residents also presented a petition with about 300 signatures opposing the permit.
The racing facility would have been located on a 36-acre tract on the south side of Premier Parkway, just east of Spencer Road, the site of an old par-3 golf course.
Paul Irwin, of 370 Speedway, LLC and the potential developer of the property, said the permit would allow go-carts, motorcycles, cars and light trucks, along with drone racing. The track also could be used for driver training classes and emergency services training.
Individuals could bring their own vehicles or rent them, and the track would have included garages and outside vehicle storage and repairs. Races could be viewed by up to 2,500 spectators, Irwin said.
The proposal was recommended by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, but residents spoke against it on May 23 when the permit first came before the aldermen, who tabled action until this month.
Irwin said earlier he had done his own acoustical study to see how much noise would carry over to the subdivisions. His consultant, Gary Brown with McClure Engineering, told the board that the worst-case scenario called for sound levels close to background levels, and less than the city’s noise standards.
Races at the site where noise levels are highest would only last about 15 minutes, Brown said. An acoustical wall built along the southeast corner of the track, mufflers on vehicles, continuous noise monitoring and using quiet go-carts would lessen noise.
“Potential noise has always been the biggest concern for this development,” Irwin told aldermen. “If the sound study date collected has shown the facility would have a negative impact on the community, then 370 Speedway LLC would not be here requesting this permit.”
Meanwhile, Jim Holtrop, an acoustical engineer with AcoustiControl of Wildwood, spoke for residents, saying that the track would feature different engines, such as two-stroke and four-stroke motorcycles, crowd noise, and more piecing noise that is more noticeable.
“What you have is 15 minutes of noise, then no noise, then 15 minutes of noise, which is extremely annoying,” Holtrop said.
Meanwhile, Irwin, responding to a question from Alderman Jerry Hollingsworth [Ward 2], said he didn’t own the property, but was checking to see if the city would go along with the proposal and seek further financing.
Residents said they wanted to main peaceful and quiet neighborhoods. Tom Kendall said city and officials should be proud of how their city has developed.
“But when you bring in kind of a weekly D-Day attack, you don’t want that,” he said.
Emily Buckhannon, another resident, said noise from the track might be heard by those using the city’s nearby 370 Lakeside Park.
“I think they might want to hear the buzz of the katydids or they might want to hear the little croak of the tree frogs,” Buckhannon said. “Or if they are really lucky they will get to hear the big beautiful blue heron that goes swishing across Lake 370 about six or seven o’clock at night rather that what ambient allowable noise that may come from this speedway.”
Other residents said they feared that Irwin would seek variances to city requirements over time that would increase noise levels.
“We are here asking you – our alderman, our mayor, our leaders – to protect us,” said Cindy Williams, a member of the board of directors for Turnberry Villas.
She said residents want their quiet neighborhoods protected.
“There is nothing wrong with the speedway, it’s just the location,” she said. “It’s too close to our neighborhood, it’s too close to the park.”
Irwin said after the vote – greeted with boisterous applause by residents – that he may look for alternative sites in Bridgeton and Maryland Heights that are further away from residential areas.
One site may be near a shooting range off St. Charles Rock Road in Bridgeton, and another site is near the casinos in Maryland Heights.
“All I can do is provide information,” Irwin said, who said he had worked on a track proposal for a number of years and wanted to be “transparent” about what he was doing. “I don’t want to blindside anybody, I want them to be aware of what we were doing with the track.”