A proposed Motorplex recreational development will come back to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly in about a month.
The assembly on Monday postponed voting on a 10-year lease agreement with Thunder Mountain Raceway Park, Inc., a local nonprofit organized by Lee Brock. In that agreement, the nonprofit would pay $1 a year for 106 acres of undeveloped borough-owned land above Mile 13 North Tongass Highway, in the Whipple Creek area.
Brock told the assembly that he wouldn’t use the entire 106 acres for the Motorplex. He wants to position the park on that site as far away from homes as possible to reduce noise concerns.
Brock said the site is flat with relatively few trees. He intends to start with a go-cart track and eventually offer track space for motorcycles, ATVs and drag racing. He said it’s a way to give kids something to do.
“I just think this is an opportunity,” he said. “We’ve got contractors on board that’s gonna come in and develop our tracks at no expense to the Motorplex park. I’ve got a couple of people on board that’s gonna look at grants once we get the property tied up, if we can go forth with this.”
Brock told the assembly that his group would build the access roads to the proposed park. He said the site is at a higher elevation than nearby homes, with some land contours to help reduce noise.
There were multiple concerns from assembly members, though. Alan Bailey, participating telephonically, said noise travels far, and race tracks are loud.
Assembly Member Judith McQuerry wondered about restroom facilities. Brock responded they plan to use underground cisterns that will be pumped out as needed.
Assembly Member Stephen Bradford said 106 acres seems too large, and added that the site is more suitable for future housing development.
Assembly Member Rodney Dial wondered whether the non-profit would be willing to pay property taxes; and Assembly Members Sue Pickrell and AJ Pierce want some kind of business plan.
Here’s Pierce: “I echo Ms. Pickrell’s concerns that there’s not a business plan. I say that only because when you do go and look for funding, and look for support, that’s one of the main things that they’re going to ask for.”
Pickrell, participating by phone, clarified that the plan doesn’t have to be complicated. It can simply state what they want to do, with a timeline for different phases of the project, and an estimate of what everything will cost.
Assembly Member Felix Wong spoke in favor of the proposed Motorplex. He said such a facility could give people an outlet and reduce illegal and dangerous drag racing elsewhere.
Dial proposed postponing the motion until April 16th to give Brock time to draft a business plan. Dial also wants an assessed value of the property in case the assembly decides to ask park developers to pay a property tax equivalent. The motion to postpone passed unanimously.
Also Monday, the assembly opted to not move forward with increasing the single-item sales tax cap, which has remained at $1,000 for about 40 years. The Ketchikan City Council agreed last week to tentatively move forward with increasing the tax cap in cooperation with the borough. The council also talked about an exemption for rent, and potentially targeting jewelry sales.
While rejecting a motion to raise the tax cap, the borough assembly was open to bringing options back following an upcoming Cooperative Relations Committee meeting with the city.