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Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

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Coalition sends letter opposing the planned raceway in Thornburg

RELATED: See complete coverage of the Dominion Raceway

Rendering of planned speedway in Thornburg.

A group calling itself The Coalition to Preserve the Thornburg Countryside has sent Spotsylvania County officials a letter voicing its opposition to the Old Dominion Speedway’s planned relocation to Thornburg.

The letter, sent this week to the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors and School Board, expresses concerns about noise and the raceway’s impact on roads, nearby schools and the environment.  It questions whether the revenue the county would generate from the raceway would cover traffic mitigation requirements. “We believe it would be a mistake for anyone to prematurely conclude a race track would result in a net economic gain for Spotsylvania,” the letter says.

Steve Britt, principal owner of the Old Dominion Speedway, is under contract to purchase 160 acres on the northeast corner of the Thornburg interchange off Interstate 95. The sale is contingent on various government approvals, including a rezoning and special-use permit from Spotsylvania.

Britt hopes to open the Dominion Raceway in Spotsylvania in the spring of 2014. The roughly $10 million facility would include an oval track for stock-car racing, a drag strip and a road course. Britt wants to create a racing-focused entertainment complex that could also be used year-round for festivals, concerts, karting, collector car auctions, drive-in movies and other special events. There will be pad sites for additional businesses wishing to co-locate there.

The Coalition to Preserve the Thornburg Countryside has a website and Facebook page. Its letter calls the group a “fast-growing coalition of Thornburg-area  residents and Spotsylvania citizens” but doesn’t say who any of those people are.

Here’s the coalition’s letter:

Dear Spotsylvania Supervisors and School Board Members:

We are a newly established but fast growing coalition of Thornburg area residents and Spotsylvania citizens writing to apprise you of serious concerns we have with the proposed Dominion Raceway in our community.   We are especially disturbed by the fact that beforeresidents in our community were even asked, or otherwise engaged, several announcements were made in numerous newspapers and other publications with headlines like, “Old Dominion Speedway finds new home.” 

Most respectfully to each of you, we believe this puts the cart before the horse.  Would it not have been prudent for the race track owners and developers to hold some kind of community meeting before making a final decision to relocate to Thornburg?  Do our concerns and opinions not matter?  Most troubling are claims being made by race track supporters that supervisors have already decided to support this project, before asking for or reviewing any transportation, noise, environmental or economic impact studies.  We hope these claims are inaccurate, as we would all find it quite disconcerting were our elected officials to express support for a project without the benefits of all this crucial information — and more importantly, before taking the time to consider our views and the views of other stakeholders and all those who may be affected by this race track.
Please understand our coalition includes those who love motorsports and who attend race events.  We are not taking issue with the sport.  Rather, we have serious concerns with the location and potential adverse effects associated with race tracks in other communities; and these are issues we believe should be equally concerning to all county officials.  Because the race track owners and developers did not engage us in any way before the announcement was made that they would be our new neighbor, we commissioned some of our own studies from among the most respected and professional sources available.  The findings within these studies is disturbing, and we have made this information available via a website we created to warn and alert our fellow citizens.  We ask that you please take the time to visit our site, download the studies and review this information we have compiled for yourselves.  We trust you will then take action to secure and review your own third-party, independent studies for the county and public consideration, to include transportation, noise, environmental and economic impact studies.
We commissioned a traffic report from Dexter R. Williams, a professional traffic consultant and engineer from Virginia who has served as an expert witness in both Virginia and federal court proceedings.  His report indicated a race track at this location will require “radical measures” to handle traffic, and that without significant infrastructure improvements (that the Commonwealth Transportation Board said last night will not be included in funding), this onus could fall upon our Sheriff’s Office.  Deputies and county resources could then be required to direct thousands of cars through a small and already crowded interchange during events, which we read are planned year-round and multiple times per week.  Who is going to pay for all this?  Won’t this hurt our already short-handed Sheriff’s Office?  The traffic mitigation requirements could very well result in a massive cost to taxpayers, and we therefore think it would be in the best interests of the county for the board of supervisors to independently determine, and as realistically as possible, if the revenues generated from the race track would be enough to cover just these costs, let alone other costs that may be associated with this initiative.  For this reason alone, we believe it would be a mistake for anyone to prematurely conclude a race track would result in a net economic gain for Spotsylvania.  
Did you know there is both an elementary school and middle school just over a mile away from the proposed race track?  Someone needs to investigate what kind of an impact the track would have upon these schools.  We commissioned a noise study from Harris Miller Miller & Hanson, Inc., one of our nation’s foremost experts in race track noise (they have completed numerous studies for race tracks and localities surrounding race tracks across the nation).  Much to our dismay, HMMH determined “the loudest events at the dragstrip will be very clearly audible for a radius of up to ten miles or more…”  In addition to the two schools nearest the epicenter of this noise radius, there are dozens of churches, a synagogue, the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, Germanna Community College and four other schools within this noise radius.  How many homes and citizens will this include?  These experts also point out the noise from events at the race track would exceed the county’s current noise ordinance.  Wasn’t this ordinance created for a reason?  The county would therefore have to change and weaken the noise ordinance just to accommodate the race track.  Is it appropriate for any board of supervisors to change a county law just to accommodate one business at the expense of everyone else?
Again, because we were never engaged and because there has yet to be any county-requested studies made available to the public about this race track, we have done a great deal of our own self-initiated homework.  As you know, this race track abuts a Virginia Outdoors Foundation easement, and one that is also the potential habitat for endangered species.  Regardless of the very, very immediate noise impact, does anyone really think a bordering race track would not utterly destroy the scenic part of this scenic preservation easement?  Has anyone yet asked what a race track and road course would do to the bordering Po River?  We believe these are very important and significant considerations that need to be addressed, even if they were not considered before the announcement was made that Old Dominion Speedway found a new home in Thornburg.
Several members of our coalition attended the Commonwealth Transportation Board public hearing last night, and a few of us spoke.  We attended because we believe race track traffic would be devastating to Thornburg.  We have professionally confirmed reasons to believe this will hurt, not help, our local businesses.  With thousands of additional cars inundating our already crowded exit and small community, we just don’t see how anyone would be able to get out of their cars to shop locally.  On that note, if the race track sells food and beverages, and if a new gas and convenience store were constructed at the entrance (as could be reasonably expected) how would this new competition help our local businesses?
We are sending you this long and detailed correspondence because we would like you to seriously consider our detailed and very legitimate concerns.  Please visit our website to review the information we have amassed to date.  Thank you for your time.
The Coalition to Preserve the Thornburg Countryside


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