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Posted: January 20, 2010 12:01 a.m.

Drag Strip supporters rally in Jersey

The Citizens for the Motorsports Complex had their first official meeting on Monday night in the Jersey Community Center in Walton County. The group is composed of residents and automobile aficionados who are in support of the proposed Social Circle drag strip.

Donnie Clack, the petitioner who wants to build the drag strip off Interstate 20, doesn't like to call the site a drag strip, because he believes the motorsports complex has more to offer the community than just the track.

Clack held the meeting to rally the supporters for the site and to help educate the public about his specific design intentions for the motorsports complex.

"We’re also fighting this fear of the unknown," Clack said. "This is not a bad project."

Clack believes that detractors of the site have blown some of the issues of proportion but does acknowledge that some concerns are valid, such as noise, and has engineers working on the issue before it comes to a vote by the Social Circle planning and zoning commission in February.

Members in the crowd proposed ideas, such as ensuring that the facility was handicap accessible and also addressing an idea to add a play area for younger children. Clack also stated that one Social Circle resident has proposed placing a skateboard park on the property as well. At this time, all of these are merely ideas, and not confirmed additions to the building plan.

Clack also discussed the fuel storage on site, stating that the current building plan did not call for any underground storage, and that all fuel and oil tanks would be above ground and approved by the Fire Marshall in accordance with the law.

Clack has stated that the track would only be a 1/8 mile track with a ¼ mile break zone. Clack said that the property isn’t long enough to extend the track to a ¼ mile strip, which would require a ½ mile break zone.

Safety was another hot topic. A point that has been brought up repeatedly in the past was the Yellow River Drag Strip that used to operate in Newton County. A vehicle lost control at the track on March 2, 1969, killing 11 teenagers and children who were near the track. Eight members of the CftMC were present at the track on the day of the accident; Donnie Clack’s cousin was one of those killed.

"If (those people) had been where they were supposed to be, they would be sitting here with us today" Clack said. "That wreck probably did more good for the safety of drag racing than anything. We would have a safe and controlled environment."

Clack stated that he wanted all the meetings of the Citizens for the Motorsports Complex to be honest and open, and stated he believed some of the techniques used by those who oppose the track have been slightly misleading. He cited a YouTube link on the CCoSC Web site that showed a 2007 accident in Selmer, Tenn., that killed six. Several members in the CftMC pointed out that the accident had occurred on an open, public street during a parade, and that road conditions had also been attributed to the loss of control of the vehicle. He stated that a properly maintained drag strip - with walls between cars and viewers as required by law – could not have a similar catastrophe.

"We’re trying to be up front with facts," Clack said. "If you’ve got to distort facts to make yourself look good, you’ve got a problem. I’m not going to distort facts. I would be ashamed to do that."

The planning and zoning commission will be holding a work session next Monday, Jan. 25, at 6 p.m. to hold a hearing on the issue. The meeting is open to the public, but only representatives from both sides pre-selected by the commission will be invited to speak.

Approximately 60 people of all ages and genders attended the meeting. Many were residents of Newton and Walton Counties around Social Circle, and some lived within the Social Circle city limits.

The group will meet again next Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Jersey Community Center, located off Jersey Social Circle Road in Walton County. The group can be found on Facebook as the "East Atlanta Motorsports Complex," and have a Web site at www.citizensforthemotorsportscomplex.com.

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