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Track request racing ahead

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Spotsylvania County is speeding toward its final decision on the proposed Dominion Raceway in Thornburg.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously voted to hold a joint public hearing with the Planning Commission on the raceway’s requests for a rezoning and special-use permit.

Typically, those governing bodies have separate hearings. No date has been set for the joint public hearing, but it will be at the end of June at the earliest, County Administrator Doug Barnes said.

The raceway asked for a joint hearing when it filed its application with the county in January. Barnes asked supervisors for direction on that request—which was not on the agenda—during the “new business” portion of Tuesday’s meeting.

Supervisors voted to approve it with no discussion. “I don’t think it’s unprecedented,” Supervisor Ann Heidig said.

Fredericksburg attorney Charlie Payne noted in an email that it has been seven months since the project was made public and that “with all due respect, it’s time to move forward with the rezoning process.”

“Timing on a final decision has been a priority for my client in order to preserve its NASCAR sanctions for stock-car races, as there is competition for these sanctions from other tracks ” Payne said.

Developer Steve Britt previously owned Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas, which closed last year after 60 years of operation. He hopes to reopen it as Dominion Raceway 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 Coalition to Preserve the Thornburg Countryside, which was formed late last year in opposition to the development, has expressed concerns about noise and traffic.

Coalition President Joyce Ackerman said in a telephone interview Tuesday night that she was “surprised but not surprised” by the board’s vote to have a joint hearing.

“I never know, really, what to expect,” she said. “I feel that our community in Thornburg deserves a little more thought. We feel like it’s going to destroy what we know and what we have and we’re not being considered very much.”

Joint public hearings are rare, but they’ve happened before in Spotsylvania and other localities.

The Fredericksburg City Council and Planning Commission, for instance, held a joint hearing on the Kalahari water park and hotel complex. That project was approved several years ago, but has not been developed.

Spotsylvania’s Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission did hold separate public hearings on the raceway’s request for amendments to the county’s Comprehensive Plan. Both voted in favor of the changes, which make the raceway compatible with the county’s long-term guide for growth.

The raceway must also receive approvals from the Virginia Department of Transportation. VDOT is expected to decide on the development’s proposed entrance—which is closer to I–95 ramps than guidelines allow—after supervisors vote on the rezoning request.

In other business, supervisors on Tuesday voted to spend $250,000 to reduce health insurance premium hikes for county employees and retirees. They are calling the plan a “health insurance premium holiday.”

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402