Is planned raceway a prize or a drag for Spotsylvania?
Hundreds have weighed in on the proposed Dominion Raceway in Spotsylvania County over the past several months. Many say it would be an economic boon for Thornburg and the county as a whole. Others say the noise and traffic from the raceway would ruin their way of life.
Those supporters and detractors may have their last chance to publicly address the raceway’s application for a rezoning and special-use permit on May 28 at 6 p.m. The Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors will have a joint public hearing then at the Holbert Building to consider the raceway’s requests. We asked several Spotsylvania residents where they stand on the raceway issue and why.
RICHARD STORMAsk Richard Storm if he’s an adrenaline junkie and you’ll receive an instant response.
“Gotta have it.”
Storm, 50, has been a firefighter with the Quantico Fire Department for 24 years. And if that’s not enough, he’s also a stock-car racer, with his wife and two children on the crew.
Racing wasn’t always a family affair. Storm hesitates when asked how he got into the sport.
“Realistically?” he says. “Speeding tickets.”
Actually, he received three in about a month for drag racing—or “cruising,” as he calls it—down U.S. 1 more than three decades ago. A Fredericksburg city judge told him he was going to lose his license.
“You like racing so much, why don’t you go race?” he recalls the judge saying. Race legally is what he meant.
Storm started at Sumerduck Dragway and later became hooked on oval-track races.
So it’s no surprise that he’s thrilled about the proposed Dominion Raceway, which would be just 10 minutes from his home in Partlow.
“Everybody’s talking about this track up and down the East Coast,” he says. “I don’t see nothing but good coming from it.”
He’s convinced that after a year, the naysayers will wonder why they were ever worried.
Storm has turned racing into a positive outlet since his youthful indiscretions.
While competing in a fire department-themed car, he would hand out plastic fire helmets, coloring books and crayons to kids at racing events.
“The kids love it,” said Storm, who’s also brought his car to local schools. “You look at the stands and see all the little fire helmets on their heads.”
He’s also raced a car with the names of Virginians killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It made the TV news, he says.
He has wood-framed pictures of all of his cars in his garage, where he spends most of his time outside of work. Currently parked in the garage is a car with “Come and Support Dominion Raceway” emblazoned on the hood.
“If I had the money, I would buy property and be right there,” Storm said. “I know what it’s going to be.”
OTIS KAYOtis Kay says his family’s move from a trailer to a four-bedroom home was like being “released from prison.”
He and his wife Pauline had lived in a 40-foot-long mobile home in Thornburg since they married in 1969. It was by his parents’ house on a 6-acre piece of land the family has owned since Kay was a teenager.
But six children later, the space was “right tight,” Kay recalls. His five sons slept on bunk beds and his daughter on a couch, at least if his memory serves him right.
So Kay spent several years building a home on that family land next to the trailer at South Roxbury Mill Road.
“I put a lot into it,” he said. “A lot of sweat.”
Now he wishes he had property somewhere else.
That’s because the proposed Dominion Raceway site is about a mile from his home, and he thinks it will cause noise and even more traffic congestion in the area. Kay says he’s not against racing, acknowledging that as a kid he illegally raced a ’56 Ford on Interstate 95 when it was just a dirt path. But he thinks Thornburg is the wrong location for a raceway.
“There’s got to be another place that’s suitable,” he said.
The construction of Kay’s home could be part of a Spotsylvania history lesson.
He remembers buying blueprints and paying Layton Fairchild’s trucking company $369 to haul 20-some dump-truck loads of dirt to the home site. Fairchild was one of the first African-Americans to serve on Spotsylvania’s Planning Commission.
Kay says developer Hugh Cosner, a former Spotsylvania supervisor, let him take dirt for free from land that’s now Cosner’s Corner.
After laying his home’s foundation himself, “my money ran out,” he recalled. A home builder eventually finished the house, and Kay and a friend completed the electrical work.
A pastor at First Mount Zion Church in Sparta, Kay says he doesn’t plan to relocate unless the raceway becomes too burdensome. After all, he noted, he turns 68 today. “I ain’t for gettin’ up and moving.”
JEAN AND TOM KLINGER
Jean and Tom Klinger call it their retirement home.
Just minutes from Interstate 95, the dwelling in rural Spotsylvania County sits on three acres by the Po River.
Flagstone steps in the backyard lead down to the waterfront, where Jean Klinger’s daughter had her wedding several years ago.
“It’s close enough to the interstate where I can drive to work,” said Tom Klinger, 56, who has a civilian job at Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County. “But it’s also peaceful.”
The Klingers, however, don’t think that tranquility will last. Noise and traffic from the proposed Dominion Raceway in Thornburg would destroy their quality of life, they say.
Tom Klinger says he crewed for a drag racer in his younger days, so he knows how loud the sport can be.
“We’d just like to know if there’s a way we can live together peacefully, if there is such a thing,” said Jean Klinger, 61. “We were here first.”
Her husband chimed in: “You wouldn’t know it with our Board of Supervisors.”
The Klingers moved to their Spotsylvania home on North Roxbury Mill Road in 2000 after an exhaustive search for property. You can hear the hum of I–95 from their back deck, where Tom Klinger likes to relax with cigars.
Before moving to Spotsylvania, he retired from the Army after 21 years—“hence our desire for peace and quiet,” his wife said.
Their previous house was about a mile from the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport.
And they lived in military housing by Honolulu International Airport when Tom Klinger was stationed in Hawaii. Military aircraft would “run those engines up to full blast before they let the brakes loose,” he said. “It just roared and shook everything.”
But the Klingers thought the noisy military life was behind them.
They’ve poured thousands of dollars into their planned retirement home for an addition and other upgrades, including heated bathroom floors. If the raceway comes, they say they’ll eventually move to the mountains.
“They can’t drag race on the side of a mountain,” Tom Klinger said.
Richard Bowles believes the proposed Dominion Raceway will change Thornburg from an afterthought to a destination.
That’s a good thing, at least from his perspective as the manager of the Holiday Inn Express & Suites right near the planned racing complex.
“Right now, we’re just an overnight stop—people on their way from the northern United States down to Myrtle Beach or Florida,” said Bowles, 41, who lives in Hanover County. “We really want this to be a destination.”
Most customers are either walk-ins or make their reservations the day of or day before their stays, he said.
Bowles has been in the hospitality industry for about 20 years and has even managed several motels near small racetracks.
Those tracks were popular with locals but didn’t boost his business a whole lot.
But he thinks Dominion Raceway will be different.
He’s met with owner Steve Britt, who addressed some concerns and shared plans for the approximately $10 million facility with an oval track, drag strip and road course.
“It’s not just, ‘Let’s throw a little track here for the locals,’” Bowles said.
He thinks it will draw people from Northern Virginia and other states like North Carolina and West Virginia.
And he hopes some of them will come into town early or leave later to make time for visits to historic Fredericksburg or King’s Dominion.
That would improve slower days like Thursdays and Sundays.
Bowles also likes that the facility won’t be limited to racing. It could host other events like concerts or car shows, he said.
Part of the appeal of his job, he says, is meeting all sorts of people, from government officials traveling to Fort A.P. Hill to sports teams playing at the Virginia Sports Complex in Ruther Glen.
He thinks Dominion will attract a similarly diverse group.
“NASCAR has many fans,” Bowles said. “It’s not a segmented group. It’s young, it’s old, it’s families, it’s men, it’s women. It’s everybody.”