The developer of the proposed $100 million Orlando Motorsports Park (OMP) has redesigned the track, shortened the hours and agreed to build a higher wall -- all in an effort to win approval for a noise variance from Osceola County.
Racing enthusiast Andy Bardar is no longer seeking a variance for up to 90 decibels -- a proposal that has generated fierce opposition from nearby residents and resorts.
He has a purchase contract on the 217-acre parcel at the southwest corner of W192 and the S.R. 429 beltway interchange. The contract is conditioned on the approval of the noise variance, and Osceola County has received more than 100 emails and letters against it.
Bardar said the revised application now seeks a variance for up to 75 decibels, and Bardar said noises at that level would only be heard in the vicinity of the highway interchange -- not in residential areas. The closest neighborhoods would experience sounds of between 55 and 60 decibels when the loudest vehicles are on the track. The county's noise ordinance allows sounds up to 55 decibels before sunset.
"We feel like we made some very significant changes, but there are some people who will never change their minds," Bardar told GrowthSpotter on Thursday.
He presented the project and discussed the changes that morning at the W192 Development Authority meeting in hopes of winning an endorsement from the board. But board members ultimately decided against taking a position, since the variance goes to the Board of Adjustment on Oct. 17.
"To be clear, that doesn't mean we don't like the project," board member John Classe said.
Bardar and his team met last week with county planners to discuss the revisions he would need to make to get a positive staff recommendation before the hearing.
He is proposing a complex with a 1.5-mile “fun track” and go-kart track -- both aimed at tourists -- and a longer, private track for club members and corporate events.
OMP would provide a fleet of high performance cars and offer specialized instruction -- with an emphasis on skill over speed -- to provide customers with a "bucket list" driving experience, he said.
"The majority of our cars will be factory direct -- not modified," Bardar said.
Among the Ferraris and Maseratis will be the new Porsche Mission E and Tesla electric cars. Bardar stressed that his project would not produce the same level of noise as the former Disney World test track, which residents could hear from miles away.
"At Disney, they ran NASCAR-type cars," he said. "We shouldn't be compared to that. We're not a speedway. We're not a racetrack. You'll be able to sleep at night when we've got the Porsche and Tesla out on the track."
The revised application also spells out a detailed plan to monitor and regulate noise on the track.
"Autonomous sound sensors will be placed in key areas of the facility," it reads. "These sensors will be electronically monitored anytime the track is active. The instant a violation is detected the system automatically notifies both the offending driver as well as road course traffic control. The system will automatically send the offending vehicle a 'pit now' message upon detection of violation."
Bardar said that with the implementation of the noise monitoring policy, the fun track and family-friendly go-karts would be able to operate without a variance. The project needs a variance primarily for the limited occasions when club members are permitted to drive their own 2-stroke engine go-karts. Those vehicles would not be permitted after 6 p.m.
On the new site plan, Bardar shifted the club track another 200 feet to the east and extended the sound barrier wall from 10 feet to 16.5 feet. The plan also relocated several buildings, including club member garages and townhomes to buffer noise on the southern boundary.
The plan includes a three-story conference center and retail building on the north end that would house auto-themed shops, a cafe, offices, meeting rooms and a car museum with curated, rotating exhibits. It would also have a driving simulation room to be used for instruction prior to customers driving on the track, and an observation deck for friends and family. There is no public address system.
The building also would have a luxury restaurant operated by a "chef of note" that would offer high-end, locally-sourced food, including organic and specialty options.
Fun track drivers would have instructors in the vehicle at all times. Customers would be allowed to drive their own cars, as long as they meet the noise requirements.
"We'll have restrictions," Bardar said. "We'll have a monitoring system on the track. If it's too loud, it won't be allowed on the track."
The private car club would also have its own amenity center for members and corporate events, with private meeting space, food and beverage service, a fitness room, pool, spa and kids activity center. Members would be required to pay an initiation fee and annual dues.
The fun track, retail center and kart track would operate daily from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. The club course would not be lighted and would close at 6 p.m. Bardar said the course is designed to simulate a country road, so there are no banked curves.
At full buildout, he expects to employ up to 150 people. The attraction is expected to draw between 300 and 500 average daily visitors.
"We’re not building another roller coaster," he said. "We’re not building an amusement park. We’re building something that doesn’t exist in this market."