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Adel Council considers annexation of racetrack

The Adel City Council held the first reading Tuesday, Sept. 5, of an ordinance annexing South Georgia Motorsports Park into the city limits of Adel.

 

The first reading was held after a public hearing in which the Mayor and Council received input from those in favor of and those against the annexation.

 

The Council is scheduled to hold a second reading of the ordinance and consider adopting the ordinance with annexation of SGMP at the Monday, Sept. 18, meeting.

 

The Council is attempting to balance the interests of citizens concerned that the race track will be free of a County ordinance restricting the hours of operation when SGMP is annexed into Adel, and the possibility that the race track could close due to the loss of major races if not annexed. Economic development officials say the loss of SGMP would hurt the community by eliminating the racetrack’s major regional economic impact.

 

City of Adel officials seemed interested in finding a compromise to benefit concerned citizens from that area as well as the racetrack. Officials discussed SGMP’s possible construction of a noise-dampening berm that was part of the racetrack’s original plans under the first developers and owners.

 

Following a public hearing, the City Council also held the first reading of an ordinance that would annex William Investment Co.’s property located contiguous to the city limits into the City of Adel. The property sought to be annexed is located south of Custom Ag Formulators and between the railroad and U.S. Highway 41 to the racetrack. The request is to rezone approximately 40 acres into the City of Adel.

 

The second reading and possible adoption of the ordinance concerning the Williams property annexation will be held at the Monday, Sept. 18, meeting, too. If the City annexes the Williams property, the racetrack would then become contiguous to the city limits, and the City could annex SGMP without prior permission from the County Commissioners.

 

During the Sept. 5 public hearing, Mike Williams with Williams Investment Co. spoke in favor of the request. He acknowledged that the Williams property annexation would be to benefit the SGMP annexation. The annexations are “the right thing to do” for not only the citizens of the county, but also the merchants of Adel because “Adel is kind of a tough place to make a profit in,” Williams said. “Quite frankly, if the race track were to close, it would be a setback to the community.”

 

Joe Johnson, an Old Coffee Road resident, then spoke against the annexation even though he said he has no problem with the Williams family and he believes they have done a lot for the community. The annexation would be simply to get around the County’s hours of operation rules, said Johnson, who has repeatedly complained over the years about the racetrack’s noise. “I don’t think that’s right.”

 

George Fiveash, another Coffee Road resident, said the loss of County rules would cost citizens in that area even more peace and quiet. He added that rumors are Adel wants to merge with Cecil. “We’re not going to stand for it if the race track (runs) without any kind of rules and regulations through Adel,” Fiveash said.

 

City of Cecil Attorney Cason Swan said Cecil has to deal with the traffic and noise from SGMP, and “is not getting that much in financial benefit.” The City of Cecil is against allowing the racetrack to run all night, Swan said.

 

The Council then held a public hearing on the actual SGMP annexation request. Chris Davis, SGMP general manager, spoke in favor of the request. He said the annexation would bring additional services that will benefit future development at SGMP. The racetrack has been “good neighbors” with the community, he said. He added that the 11 p.m. deadline for racing operations must end or SGMP will lose its major event promoter.

 

City Manager John Flythe asked why SGMP would go past 11 p.m. for events. Davis said due to the promoters’ need for a race winner to be named for the $50,000 or $100,000 prize, rain, the danger of tracks that are too hot or too cold, oil leaks, and wrecks. Flythe also asked the latest that the races have run. Davis replied 11:45 p.m. since he has managed the track.

 

Questioned by Mayor Buddy Duke, Davis said construction of the company’s corporate offices in a new steel building on the south part of the property could help deflect noise. City Manager Flythe asked if SGMP is open to discussion about a noise-reducing berm. Davis said owner Ozzy Moya “is for doing everything for the community he can.”

 

Jerry Connell then presented figures on the racetrack’s regional economic impact in Cook and surrounding counties. He used a formula developed by the Georgia Department of Economic Development. According to Connell, SGMP has 95 event days per year, with an average of 2,390 visitors per event. Based upon those figures (considered conservative by SGMP officials), the racetrack’s annual regional economic impact from all revenue streams, including food, lodging, gasoline, and all other retail categories totals $21,780,460.

 

The racetrack is “another tool in our (economic development) toolbox” and if it closed, it would have a negative impact on the community, Connell said.

 

Several people then spoke in opposition to the racetrack’s annexation. Cecil Attorney Swan said Cecil will consider using “whatever legal means are necessary beyond the political realm” to protect the city’s interests and “it would be beneficial to everyone if we could be included from here on out.” David Wall, another Old Coffee Road resident, questioned the $22 million economic impact figure and described the annexation request as “a slap to the face of the citizens of south Cook County” because it is intended to get around the County’s hour of operations rules. “We were there before the race track, and we will be there after the race track,” he said.

 

County Commissioner Jeff Lane recalled having to contend with the first race track owner to get just “one hour of grace” to delay the races and their noise for Sunday church services. A majority of the County Commissioners is totally against annexing SGMP into Adel without the County’s hours of operation ordinance, Lane said. He added that it’s “an economic impact” for Cecil area citizens to have peace and quiet and to be able to rest at night in their own homes. He said the City Council members’ phone numbers should be made available to answer complaints about the racetrack if the hours of operation rules are lifted.

 

Commissioner Lane also noted that the new hospital and nursing home to be built as a major community investment at Exit 37 would be just 3.3 miles from the racetrack, and the noise it generates.

 

George Fiveash spoke again about his 16-year struggle from the time that the racetrack was just in the planning stages, and being kept up at night and irritated during the day by the noise. “Just don’t throw us under the bus,” he asked the Mayor and Council.

 

County Commissioner Audie Rowe spoke about the discord and division caused by the racetrack annexation issue. He urged SGMP to consider building a sound barrier wall as “an act of good faith to bridge the gap and to be a good neighbor.”

 

C.H. Vickers said he has raced at SGMP and he urged being careful about taking people’s word for things.

 

Cecil Council Member Ben Pickett remarked that Cecil has been left out of a lot of economic development projects and the racetrack noise impacts the town because a lot of elderly people live there. 


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