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Residents slam, support proposed Dominion Raceway in Spotsylvania

RELATED: See complete coverage of the Dominion Raceway

Livingston-area resident Dorothy Miller talks against the proposed raceway as Chancellor-area resident Dwight Hansberger waits to talk in favor of it.

About 200 people packed into the Spotsylvania Planning Commission public hearing Wednesday night on the controversial Dominion Raceway proposal in Thornburg.

The hearing focused on two amendments to the county’s Comprehensive Plan. One amendment would reclassify the area, known as the Jackson Gateway Development District, to commercial. The county’s Comprehensive Plan dedicated that area for office and industrial space. The other amendment would get rid of a proposed realignment of the Thornburg interchange at Interstate 95, near the proposed raceway property.

The planning commission listened to speakers for nearly two hours before finally approving the amendments, 6–1. The Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors must approve the amendments before they can take effect.

There is still much that has to be done before the speedway could be approved. The county still has to approve rezoning and special-use requests by the applicant, Steve Britt. Also, the racetrack needs a waiver from the Virginia Department of Transportation to build its entrance, which would be closer to the interstate than guidelines allow.

Britt, the owner of the Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas, wants to build a new speedway that would include an oval track for stock cars, a drag strip and a road course among other amenities. The track facility would be built near the Thornburg exit off of I–95, which is in the Jackson Gateway Development District. Britt would like to have the $10 million project up and running next year.

The crowd at Wednesday’s hearing seemed to be tilted toward supporting the speedway, but the speakers were nearly evenly split.

Many of those who spoke for the speedway race themselves or are fans of the sport. They said the track would be a boon to the economy and would be a destination spot for locals and visitors. They said the speedway would also bring jobs to the county.

Most of those who spoke against the track live in the area where it would be built. As they have in the past, the opponents talked of the noise and traffic issues that would hurt their quality of life, as well as property values. They also said the current Comprehensive Plan would bring higher-paying jobs to the Thornburg area than the racetrack would.

Several families who live near where the track would go have formed the Coalition to Preserve the Thornburg Countryside to mount opposition against the speedway.

Joyce Ackerman, who heads the coalition and lives within a mile of where the track would be built, said she and her neighbors enjoy where they live and don’t want to move, but probably will if the track is built.

Jack Rouse, who lives near where the speedway would be built, said that if the track is built, “I’ll have a house for sale,” probably for about half its value. “You don’t want a racetrack in your backyard.”

Britt acknowledge that there are some downsides to the speedway, but added that his plans are so unique that the facility would attract many visitors to more things than racing, including such events as drive-in movies, bingo and perhaps the circus.

“The benefits,” he said, “far outweigh the negatives.”

Scott Shenk: 504/374-5436