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Posted: January 27, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Fact-finding mission under-way for drag strip

Lee Sandow/

Opposition: Stickers and shirts, such as this one worn by Jessi Gordy, loudly denounced the proposed drag strip.

The Social Circle planning and zoning commission held a work session on Monday night with representatives advocating and protesting the proposed motorsports complex.

The meeting lasted almost two hours, during which time petitioner Donnie Clack explained his reasons for wanting to build the motorsports complex on the site and addressed concerns from the planning and zoning committee and from the opposing representatives.

City Attorney Joe Reitman laid out the rules of the meeting, which included no talking out of turn and that the conversations were to remain civil. Only pre-selected members from both sides were allowed to speak. Anyone who violated these terms would be ejected from the meeting.

"There is a lot of emotion here," Reitman said, "but the law is absent of emotion."

The room was largely filled with members of the Concerned Citizens of Social Circle, many wearing anti-drag strip stickers. Few of the Supports for the Motorsports Complex were in attendance, and Clack stated it was because he had asked them not to come crowd the room, since it was only a work session and they would not be allowed to speak.

Ken Adams, chairman of the planning and zoning commission, stated that the purpose of the meeting was a fact finding mission that would allow the commission to figure out what information they would need to seek before the commission could make any recommendation to the city council. Adams says he’s not sure a decision could be rendered any time soon.

The main concerns revolving around the motorsports complex involve the drag strip — namely noise and noise containment. Other concerns are an increase in traffic and potential harm to property values and future growth. The commission stated they would need documentation and studies to see if the site would work in accordance with city and county ordinances, as well as to prove if it would significantly hurt property values.

Clack said that he was more than willing to try to work with the city, stating he’s striving to make something that would work for everybody.

Adams said that the burden of proof now lies on Clack. Clack will need to figure out what methods will be used to contain the noise, if it is determined to be a problem, as well as making sure the project falls within all city and county ordinances.

Many residents demanded to know why Clack had the idea for a drag strip, and why he didn’t try to get another venture, like an outlet mall, onto the property. Clack stated that he had looked, but nobody was looking to buy the land at the time, and that the idea for the motorsports complex was a fairly recent idea.

"The drag strip is a market," Clack said. "People need a venue, an avenue, and there is a market here, and that is the only market that I personally can think of. I’m willing to sell you anything I’ve got, but until someone steps up with a check, I’ve got to look out for something, make something work."

In addition to coming under fire for the project itself, Clack was also heavily criticized by the planning and zoning commission for comments he had made towards the city at the last Supporters meeting, during which he called Social Circle a "podunk" town and the opposition members "fuddy-duddies."

The planning and zoning commission, as well as City Manager Doug White, also addressed the supporters, stating that they needed to be sure they put their names on any letters or e-mails that they send.

Adams said he respected the groups that both sides had put together.

Clack said that he’s still going to go forward with the project as much as he can.

"Right now I don’t see any reason to back off," he said after the meeting. "We just need to find the information they’re looking for."

Members of the planning and zoning commission stated that they will likely need more work sessions before they could render any final decision. By law, there will also be at least one public hearing as well, and the public will be allowed to speak at that meeting. The next scheduled planning and zoning meeting is for Feb. 25, though it is not certain if the motorsports complex will be on the agenda at this time.

The CCoSC will be meeting in Social Circle on Thursday at 7 p.m. in Social Circle First Baptist Church, located off North Cherokee Road. The CftMC will be meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday in the Jersey Community Center, located off Main Street in Jersey.

For more on the continuing story of the drag strip, see covnews.com/dragstrip.

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