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Raceway wins Comp Plan vote

RELATED: See complete coverage of the Dominion Raceway

The proposed Dominion Raceway in Thornburg received its first green light from the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors Tuesday night after a lengthy public hearing that drew almost 50 speakers.

Racetrack supporters applauded after supervisors voted 6–0 to approve a request from Dominion Raceway Holdings LLC for amendments to Spotsylvania’s Comprehensive Plan. The changes would make the development compatible with the plan, which is a long-term guide for growth in the county.

At the hearing, 34 supported the raceway, and 12 opposed it. The Planning Commission voted last month to recommend approval of the Comprehensive Plan amendments.

But the racetrack must clear other government hurdles before it can be built.

Planning Commission members and supervisors have not yet scheduled public hearings for the raceway’s requests for a rezoning and special-use permit. The Planning Commission will make recommendations, and supervisors will have the final say on all of the raceway’s proposals.

Supervisor Gary Skinner was the only board member to make a statement before Tuesday night’s vote. Supervisor Ann Heidig was absent.

Skinner disclosed that his brother may be employed by the raceway if it is approved, as The Free Lance–Star has reported.

But he said he thinks he can remain impartial. “This will not be the first time that this Comprehensive Plan has been changed because of the needs of the county,” Skinner said.

Supporters at the hearing included Spotsylvania residents and business owners, in addition to people from Stafford and Culpeper counties and areas outside of the Fredericksburg region. Most of the opponents who spoke live near the proposed raceway site.

Raceway developer Steve Britt hopes to open the facility in spring 2014 on 160 acres at the northeast corner of the Thornburg exit off Interstate 95. If built, it will include an oval track for stock-car racing, a drag strip and a road course.

The Comprehensive Plan previously defined that property in the Jackson Gateway Development District as an “employment center.”

The board’s vote changed that designation to “commercial.”

An “employment center” can have a commercial component—but according to the plan, it’s there primarily to support industrial and office space.

Opponents, who have formed the Coalition to Preserve the Thornburg Countryside, have said the development would eliminate the possibility of drawing high-paying office jobs to Thornburg as has been envisioned in the Comprehensive Plan.

Diane Kuechler, a member of the anti-raceway coalition, noted at Tuesday’s hearing that Thornburg residents would have to live with the noise and traffic of the track every day. “Changing the Comprehensive Plan to accommodate such a disruptive business is the last thing you should consider,” she said.

Matt Jordan, another coalition member, said the raceway wouldn’t generate nearly enough revenue for needed traffic improvements. That money, he said, would have to come from Spotsylvania taxpayers.

Supporters of the raceway say it would provide a huge economic boost to the county. They also took exception to some speakers who said the raceway would increase crime in Thornburg.

“We’ve got a chance to be a part of something very, very big here,” Spotsylvania resident Richard Storm said of the raceway.

Raceway supporter Kevin McGrath said times have changed since the Comprehensive Plan was last approved in 2008. “Office space is a thing of the past,” he said. “We can build that, and it’s going to sit empty” like other office buildings in Spotsylvania.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402