Dear Editor: I am compelled to offer my views on the proposed “Motor Sports Complex” (Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Something like lipstick on a DRAGSTRIP) being proposed in Social Circle.
This will do nothing to enhance our reputation as a quiet and beautiful small town. I, along with most the people who moved out here, came for the peace and quiet, to escape the traffic and noise of suburban Atlanta. Since 1998, when we moved to Social Circle, I have had some concerns about the direction that development in Social Circle was headed, but none have raised the hairs on the back of my neck like this plan.
The owner and developer of this property is J. Donnie Clack, who lives in Loganville, and also owns Lanier Raceway. I’m not sure when he acquired the property, which is a little over 300 acres, 120 acres of which he plans for the drag strip. It borders I-20 and Highway 278, most of it being in Newton County, but a small portion is in Walton. In 2008, he petitioned and won annexation into the city limits of Social Circle. At that time the land was zoned A-2, or light to medium density residential. Now of course, he needs to get the land rezoned again to multi-use business. That is not an unreasonable zoning for the area, but I believe a much more forward thinking plan could be achieved by our civic leaders.
Indeed, such a plan is already under way just South of I-20 in Newton County called Stanton Springs. It will be a combination of a business park, offices, restaurants, retail, and residences. Progress has been slowed by the economy, but the plan remains in place, with the paved entrance road complete. If Mr. Clack gets his way, surely the developers at Stanton Springs won’t be happy.
Hotels and restaurants are needed in this area. I often entertain folks from out of town, but when the house is full, I cannot recommend a hotel that is near enough to be convenient. You might say “OK, the visitors to the drag strip are going to need restaurants and hotels, too.” Yes, but not the kind that the residents of Social Circle are going to be proud of. We already have enough greasy spoons here. We have had TV and movie crews here before, but I don’t have any idea where they stayed. Wouldn’t it be nice to have more upscale establishments be attracted to the area instead of having to travel to Snellville, Conyers, or Athens? If an entity were considering such a move, they would stop dead in their tracks before building near a drag strip.
Yes, growth will come to our little town, mostly because of its proximity to I-20. You can’t stop progress forever, but you can use progress to your benefit with the proper planning. The short term tax revenue that a drag strip would produce is not worth the damage to the long term. I urge Mayor Jim Burgess, the city council, and the planning and zoning commission to reject Mr. Clack’s bid to cheapen our town. He has, after all, called us “podunk.” Let’s show him we’re not.