City says yes to racetrack operations

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Carson Tahoe Champion Speedway's season this year will include motocross and go carts, events which neighboring property owners had protested.

Carson City supervisors Thursday denied three appeals of a February planning commission decision regarding multiple events at the track. Speedway neighbors had complained of noise, dust, hours of operation and ultimately focused their complaints on what events were and were not allowed at the track, which is "grandfathered" into a residential neighborhood. In operation since 1969, any uses at the track that have occurred since 1978 zone changes in the area are allowed forever. Neighbors argue motocross, go carts, driver training and filming on the track are all uses either abandoned periodically or are recent additions.

Supervisors, however, agreed with planning commissioners that essentially, racing is racing and the speedway is a business entitled to natural expansion.

"I certainly empathize with residents, but I balance that with the fact that Champion Speedway is a business, and to be successful as a business that warrants evolution," said Supervisor Richard Staub, who abstained from voting because he has represented as an attorney Landmark Homes, owned by track lessee Jim Bawden.

In a 4-0 vote supervisors decided to give agreements negotiated by the planning commissioners on hours, noise levels and track activities a chance to improve neighborhood relations this season.

"I think the season will, hopefully, prove we're correct," Supervisor Jon Plank said.

About 50 people, mostly track supporters, attended the meeting, the tone of which shied from the 3-months of controversial planning commission meetings on the issue.

"You residents out there certainly have my sympathy and concern over the issues you had to deal with the previous operators of that facility," Mayor Ray Masayko said. "On the other hand, any business operator has the right to continue to operate his or her business as long as they maintain the continuity and follow rules and regulations even if they're in a non-conforming zone. We can't do much about the fact that the racetrack needs to exist and needs to have a certain amount of rights."

Appellants Don and Kate Schulz, Jeff and Ray Schulz and Bill Kugler, represented by attorney John Griffin, continued to argue the planning commission had ignored that many operations at the track do not fall under grandfathered status. Also, the appellants own vacant land by the racetrack which they would like to have rezoned for a housing development. Community development representatives have postponed development plans because of its proximity to the racetrack.

Griffin argued planning commissioners "abandoned some of their duties" and expanded uses at the track, from the addition of an interior track for the Outlaw Go Karts, relocated last year from Fuji Park, to the months in which motocross could run. Griffin said Kugler may appeal supervisors' decision to district court "in light of the record that there are substantial errors which don't justify findings of non-conforming use."

Kate Schulz said the racetrack's presence creates pollution, heath and safety and police enforcement issues in South Carson. She and her husband, Don, argue a housing development on the property adjacent to the speedway would be more of an economic benefit to the community.

"The racetrack is a nuisance which represents a devaluation of the region," Kate Schulz said.

Supervisor Robin Williamson said some issues, such as dust and noise control, should be worked out among property owners. She voted to deny the appeals "and let this business prosper."

"We're running out of land in Carson City, and everyone thinks it's good for something to be someplace else, not next to them," she said. "Well, we don't have many 'someplace elses.'"

Masayko applauded track officials' efforts to calm issues by going through the planning process since last October.

"The applicant sacrificed some of the rights he could have asserted under the grandfathered clause," he said. "I think what we ended up here today is better than what we started with in last years racing season."

Bawden said the Board properly weighed "an overwhelming abundance of evidence" supported by 450 pages of paperwork and reached the proper conclusion. He said he will abide by all planning commission stipulation, which includes self-enforcement of noise levels.

"All eyes are on us, and the racetrack with continue to receive pressure from those who lost here tonight," he said.


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