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Branson racetrack developers face suit

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Before a racetrack complex near Branson can become a reality, its developers have a few Ozarks hills to climb.

Branson Sports Entertainment Complex LLC faces a lawsuit in Taney County Circuit Court after a party opposed to BSEC’s construction of a $250 million racetrack facility had its appeal thrown out at a Nov. 16 Board of Adjustment meeting. With the developers also losing two separate appeals to meet noise restrictions with the finished track facility and complete infrastructure improvements ahead of starting operations, a hearing to reconsider those appeals has been set for Dec. 21 in Forsyth.

At the board of adjustment meeting, plans for an industrial park near the racetrack also were discussed by the developers, though many of those details have yet to be ironed out.

Paul Vozar and Ozarks Extreme Sports Complex Inc. filed suit Nov. 17 against racetrack developer Russell Cook and BSEC for breach of contract. The suit claims that Cook, organizer of BSEC, entered into a confidentiality agreement with Vozar on Jan. 25, 2010, concerning Vozar’s business plans to bring a racing and entertainment complex to the land that Cook now owns and is actively developing for his racing complex.

Following a roughly six-month period in which Vozar tried to secure financing for his project, Cook established BSEC and moved forward with his own plans, which utilized confidential research and intellectual material from Vozar, according to the complaint.  

Calls to BSEC officials and Vozar’s Springfield attorney, Grant Johnson, were not returned by press time. The court had not set a hearing date as of Dec. 8.

At the Nov. 16 meeting, the Taney County Board of Adjustment modified five conditions for use on the racetrack property, but denied the appeals of those objecting to the plans. The board also did not approve two appeals by the developers. By a 3-1 vote, it kept in place a noise restriction on the track, and the board split its vote on requiring infrastructure improvements be put in place before operations can begin, effectively leaving the county Planning Commission Board decision unchanged. Four listening stations are to be erected by BSEC a half-mile away from the facility, and the property owners would be fined $5,000 for each time noise from the track exceeds 68 decibels. BSEC officials said at the board meeting they are working with the Missouri Department of Transportation on improvements to the U.S. 65 and Highway 86 intersection.

Bob Atchley, Planning & Zoning administrator for Taney County, said only BSEC requested a rehearing on the Board of Adjustment’s decision concerning the appeals. A 7 p.m. public hearing has been set for Dec. 21 at the Taney County Courthouse to consider a rehearing. At that meeting, the board will make a determination on whether BSEC would face substantial injury if its cases against noise restriction and infrastructure requirements are not heard, and if the developers have new evidence not presented at the original hearing that could impact the decision of the board. If those conditions are met, Atchley said a rehearing would likely be granted for the board’s next scheduled public meeting Jan. 18.

Atchley said, historically, very few cases are reconsidered.

BSEC also is planning an industrial park near the site, but Atchley said no formal plans have been submitted to the county. He said those plans were discussed at the Nov. 16 meeting as part of a second phase of construction, and he advised the board to treat those as a separate issue because they were not part of the proposal submitted to the county.

Atchley said BSEC officials claimed the park could bring more than 100 jobs to the area. Those details came to light because developers said at the board of adjustment meeting they are working with MoDOT on a cost-share arrangement and MoDOT requires such an arrangement to create jobs.

Martin MacDonald, a spokesman for Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale, said the resort and its parent company, Bass Pro Shops, object to the racetrack plans and were pleased that BSEC’s appeals to noise restrictions and infrastructure requirements failed. Big Cedar was one of five parties that appealed the July Planning & Zoning decision to allow the development to move forward.

MacDonald said the development was inconsistent with the county’s master plan, which places a value on maintaining the beauty of the region, avoiding nuisances and developments that could reduce property values.

“From our perspective, there should have never been anything to pass Planning & Zoning,” MacDonald said.

Bass Pro Shops and Big Cedar Lodge already have their own investments in the area with the multimillion-dollar lodge and the Jack Nicklaus-redesigned Top of the Rock golf course, which is roughly three-quarters of a mile away from the proposed track. In addition, Bass Pro Shops is bringing a Natural History Museum and the Ozarks Heritage Preserve to the area. MacDonald said this year up to 500 workers have been on site to develop the conservation area and museum.

And now, he said guests of Big Cedar are expressing concern about the racetrack.

“They want quiet on the back porch. They want to hear the sounds of nature, not the sounds of race cars,” MacDonald said.

On the industrial park side, the developers and brokers working on Branson Commerce Park are casting doubt whether the market can support another industrial park.

The 350-acre mixed-use Branson Commerce Park, developed by Kansas City-based BCP Land Co. LLC, has struggled to land tenants since early 2010, and its current broker said prospects are looking, but nobody has signed yet.

“I’m not sure there is the deal velocity there to support a bunch of industrial parks,” said Erik Murray, director of industrial services for Overland Park, Kan.-based Point Commercial, the real estate brokerage that is now selling lots for the development.

Steven Critchfield, a Branson-based commercial real estate broker with Commercial One Brokers LLC, had been managing the property near the corner of Highway 248 and Buena Vista Road until late last fall when he began battling throat cancer. Critchfield said he was unable to devote the time necessary to be successful in landing tenants for the park’s owners.

Still, Critchfield thinks the industrial park being planned by BSEC developers could work.

“What they have as a plus – that the Commerce Park probably doesn’t have – is that there is an airport that is right next door,” Critchfield said, referring to Branson Airport and adding that there is nearby rail service and access to U.S. Highway 65. “Then, the racetrack itself is going to generate some users that might want to be there and build a facility there.”[[In-content Ad]]

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