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Travis Pastrana receiving pushback on his proposed action sports complex on Eastern Shore

Travis Pastrana rides a bike while his daughter Bristol rides a scooter at a pump track facility.
Travis Pastrana rides a bike while his daughter Bristol rides a scooter at a pump track facility. (Courtesy Photo)

Earlier this week, Travis Pastrana announced his plans to develop a state-of-the-art racing facility, motorsports park and entertainment venue in Sudlersville.

Known as Circuit 199, the facility would feature a rallycross course, action sports progression park and pump tracks. It would be constructed at a cost of $15 million on 124 acres in the rural Eastern Shore municipality.

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Pastrana, arguably the most famous action sports athlete in the world, would be the largest investor. The Annapolis native plans to personally oversee every aspect of building the complex.

Pastrana, 36, first revealed his plans for Circuit 199 during a May interview with The Capital. The Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Famer has always competed carrying the No. 199 throughout his career in professional motor sports.

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“I’m very passionate about this project and fully dedicated to making it happen,” Pastrana said at the time. “I think this could be a very positive thing for the town of Sudlersville. We want to build a facility that promotes fitness, camaraderie and provides entertainment as well as economic growth for the community.”

However, Pastrana’s Circuit 199 proposal has met with fierce opposition from the Queen Anne’s Conservation Association, which has filed three lawsuits to halt the project. Nine Sudlersville residents, eight of whom represent four households, are listed as plaintiffs in the case.

Jay Falstad, executive director of QACA, contends the complex is unlawful because it is being constructed on property zoned as residential.

“Frankly, I’m shocked the Pastrana group is putting out a formal announcement because there is ongoing litigation. This project has not been approved and is basically unlawful,” Falstad told The Capital in a telephone interview Tuesday. “Mr. Pastrana and his representatives are advancing a narrative that is grossly premature. It appears they are using the press for propaganda purposes.”

Timothy Keefe and Beth Armstrong, who live at 890 Millington Road in Sudlersville, are one of four married couples named as plaintiffs in the lawsuits. Armstrong said the Circuit 199 complex would be located about 400 yards across a field from her house.

“We feel a project of this magnitude is an inappropriate plan for this community. It will definitely disrupt our quality of life,” Keefe said.

Meanwhile, Pastrana contends the Circuit 199 complex is being incorrectly characterized. The QACA lawsuit refers to a “large-scale commercial motocross arena.”

Pastrana, who rose to prominence as a motocross rider, said there will be no such racing at the facility. Periodically, motorcycles will use the so-called progression park for practicing freestyle tricks using ramps and foam pits.

“All the lawsuits are against a motocross track and that’s not what we’re building. For most of the year, there wouldn’t be any motorcycles on the property,” Pastrana said. “There is just too much misinformation out there. Normally, I would talk to the community to clear up the confusion and explain exactly what we are doing, but with COVID I can’t get a group together.”

Site plan for Travis Pastrana's proposed action sports complex on the Eastern Shore.
Site plan for Travis Pastrana's proposed action sports complex on the Eastern Shore. (Courtesy Photo)

Action Sports Mecca

Pastrana would oversee construction of ramps, jumps and other equipment necessary for freestyle motocross, BMX and skateboarder riders to practice their acrobatic routines. He believes the Circuit 199 progression park would become a desired training base for athletes from all over the globe and host action sports events such as his Nitro Circus Live Tour.

BMX freestyle riding and skateboarding are now part of the Summer Olympics. Those disciplines along with freestyle motocross have long been part of the X Games competition promoted by ESPN.

“I want to create a park that has permanent ramps so athletes can train for the Olympics and other competitions,” he said. “Circuit 199 would provide a venue for these athletes to push the boundaries and test new tricks.”

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Meanwhile, Pastrana said the rallycross track would not attract the type of vehicles that produce significant noise. Rally Car racing, which Pastrana pursues professionally as a driver for Subaru, would be a rarity. Electric Go-karts and gas-powered side-by-sides would be the predominant users of the track.

“It’s just not a high horsepower track,” said Pastrana, noting that a rally car produces 100 decibels of noise, 10 less than a farm tractor.

Side-by-sides, also known as utility terrain vehicles, produce 90 decibels.

Pastrana, who has competed on the Global RallyCross Championship circuit since 2011, said Circuit 199 will be surrounded by trees and fencing that will provide a natural noise buffer.

“We have to keep our decibels to the edge of our property and we fully intend to comply with that mandate,” he said. “You will only see trees and the entrance gate to the facility. You’re not going to see a racetrack. I would say that 90% of the time, people passing by won’t even know there are vehicles operating there.”

Third element of Circuit 199 is an area for pump tracks that would be used by bicycles, skateboards and scooters. It would include three separate courses catered to different skill sets ― beginner, intermediate and professionals.

Velosolutions would oversee construction of the pump tracks. Pastrana hopes Circuit 199 would host the Red Bull UCI Pump Track World Championship. He has promised to make the pump tracks available to the public on a year-round basis.

Lyn-Z Pastrana, a professional skateboarder, rides at a pump track facility while holding her daughter Bristol.
Lyn-Z Pastrana, a professional skateboarder, rides at a pump track facility while holding her daughter Bristol. (Courtesy Photo)

Steve Pringle, coach for the Kent Island High varsity and Eastern Shore Composite mountain bike teams, is excited about that element of Circuit 199. The Stevensville resident envisions bringing his high school and middle school riders to the pump tracks.

“We can teach a ton of basic skills for any type of cycling discipline on a pump track,” Pringle said. “We would have coaches out there constantly giving free lessons to families. We would also organize and host some world-class events.”

Pastrana Racing LLC has a contract option to purchase three different pieces of property ― one of which is owned by Sudlersville. Largest is a 108-acre private parcel used for farming.

All three properties had been slated for residential housing, but the proposed development never happened.

In fact, it was that project that plunged Sudlersville, a quiet town with just over 400 residents, into a financial crisis. Sudlersville, which was incorporated in 1870, has two full-time employees and an annual budget under $400,000, according to court records. Its footprint includes a handful of businesses, an elementary and a middle school, a post office, and a volunteer fire company.

In 2007, several housing developers told town officials they were interested in building approximately 650 homes in Sudlersville, which would require upgrades to the town’s water and sewer systems. Changes in federal water regulations were also a factor when the town commissioners decided to move forward with the upgrades.

However, the national housing market soon crashed and the planned development that was expected to help pay for the project never came. Sudlersville was left with about $6 million in debt, which town officials estimated would take 40 years to pay off, according to minutes of a 2017 town commission meeting.

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Paving the Way

Ron Ford, president of the town commission, said Pastrana’s project could bring much-needed revenue to Sudlersville. Ford, owner of D&W Machine Shop for the past 28 years, told The Capital in May all five town commissioners are in favor of Circuit 199.

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In fact, the Sudlersville town commission has taken steps to pave the way for the complex. Attorney Joseph A. Stevens, representing Pastrana Racing LLC, said the zoning district for the tracts of land in question is multi-faceted and includes outdoor recreational facilities in addition to residential.

On April 1, the town commissioners proposed and passed an amendment to the Sudlersville Zoning Ordinance to “better describe” the types of uses that fall under the outdoor recreation facility category.

That amendment that outdoor sports venues include skateboard and bicycle parks, rallycross tracks and motocross facilities.

Town commissioners are also in the process of amending the Sudlersville noise ordinance to exempt motocross arenas and rallycross tracks.

As an incorporated municipality, Sudlersville is exempt from Queen Anne’s County land use laws.

However, the Queen Anne’s Conservation Association lawsuit contends the town commissioners overstepped their authority in introducing both amendments. Falstad said a complex such as Circuit 199 is incompatible within a single-family residential neighborhood.

“With the way the Sudlersville town code is written right now, the proposal is unlawful. Bottom line, the town is not even following its own laws,” Falstad said.

Falstad said the plaintiffs, all of whom live in proximity to the proposed complex, are also concerned about the type of crowds Circuit 199 would attract. Pastrana expects 8,000 to 10,000 spectators to attend one or two large-scale annual events such as a Nitro Circus show or rallycross race.

According to Falstad, a preliminary hearing regarding the lawsuits is set for August in Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court. “We will exhaust every opportunity and resource available to continue to challenge this complex,” he said.

Pastrana has been told by his advisors that protracted litigation could last two years or longer and require $500,000 or more in legal fees.

“Queen Anne’s Conservation is a super well-funded anti-growth group. It is funded by wealthy families on the Eastern Shore that don’t want more traffic,” Pastrana said.

Greg French, who has served as Pastrana’s accountant since he became a professional motocross rider at the age of 14, has put considerable time into planning and executing the Circuit 199 project. He said Pastrana Racing LLC is pushing forward and is currently in the process of obtaining stormwater management, fire marshal and State High Administration approvals.

“Right now, we’re refining the project proposal and hope to submit a final site plan to the Sudlersville planning commission by late August,” French said.

French is disappointed the QACA is attempting to block a complex he claims is supported and would bring revenue to Sudlersville.

“It’s extremely unfortunate because so many people are in support of this project, including all the local and county politicians along with the majority of residents of the town,” he said. “We have worked with the community from the outset and will continue to do so. I have always presumed the will of the people will prevail provided you follow all the rules and laws.”

Keith Griffith and Lauren McMullen are two Sudlersville residents that support the Circuit 199 concept. Griffith noted the town is mired in debt and needs some sort of development to recover.

“This town has been stuck in neutral. It is not evolving with the current times. There has been no development in years. Something has to give, you can’t stay stagnant forever,” he said.

Griffith and McMullen were involved with a petition drive that collected 3,000 signatures in favor of the Circuit 199 complex. He believes the facility would pump $30,000 in taxes alone into the Sudlersville coffers.

“That does not even account for the other economic benefits that would no doubt follow. This could lead to the opening of a bike shop or a coffee shop,” McMullen said. “There are all sorts of business that could benefit from more people coming into town. We are in desperate need of economic growth and this opportunity being presented is very positive.”

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