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Caution: Dawsonville throws yellow flag on motorpark decision

No vote until April; Opponents picketed outside council meeting

POSTED: February 16, 2009 10:13 p.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Richard Wyngate, an attorney representing the Hamryka family, speaks against the Atlanta Motorsports Park during Monday night's Dawsonville City Council meeting. The Hamrykas own a 70-acre horse farm across the road from the proposed site of the park. Council members voted unanimously to table a decision on the park until the April 13 meeting.

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DAWSONVILLE — Monday night, more than 200 people packed the Dawsonville Municipal Complex to hear the fate of a proposed motorsports park in western Dawson County. They’ll have to wait nearly two months to find out.

After hearing testimony from each side, the Dawsonville City Council voted unanimously to delay a vote on the proposed 152-acre Atlanta Motorsports Park until the April 13 meeting.

The park would have a 2.77- mile track with several course configurations. Members would pay between $2,000 and $35,000 to join the club, plus a monthly membership and per use fee allowing them to take high speed laps around the course. Several already have signed up.

City Attorney Dana Miles set the ground rules for Monday night’s meeting, giving each side 30 minutes for presentation, followed by questions from council members.

Developer Jeremy Porter gave an overview of his new noise study and highlighted changes planned to bring noise levels down from an original 103 decibels to 98 decibels from the track’s outside edge. Other changes include moving a portion of the course planned close to Ga. 53, extending natural sound barriers and using hay bales as a sound buffer.

Porter has said that the track will not have spectator events, thus no need for overhead lights or a PA system, explaining he proposes a motorsports park, not a racetrack.

He has said that 85 percent of his members would be driving cars at between 65 and 80 decibels, "the equivalent of a vacuum cleaner."

Opponents contend the track would generate much more noise.

Hours before Monday night’s meeting, more than a dozen protesters carrying signs stood in a shopping center parking lot near City Hall to voice opposition to the park. One of the signs said, "Shhh! No loud racetrack."

Council member Jonathon Cox said Monday night that council took the right approach in tabling the vote, in part because Porter waited until noon Monday to submit a recommended sound study.

There was just too much information to absorb in such a short time, Cox said.

Mayor Joe Lane Cox agreed, recommending council table the vote until April so the city’s engineer and council members could review the sound study.

"I don’t feel like we have had ample time to make a decision on something so important," said Cox, who added that he had received more than 500 e-mails both for and against the project.

"We take our job seriously. I have laid awake at night thinking about this," he said. "We want to do what’s right."

Porter echoed those sentiments.

"We will continue to pray and continue to take the high road — to state the facts. I had a feeling it would be (tabled). They need due process and a fair amount of time to review the information to make sure they are comfortable with it," Porter said Monday night.

West Hamryka, whose family owns a 70-acre horse farm adjacent to the site, said that he was "thrilled" with the council’s decision.

"They (the council) did stop to think about it, and we are thrilled that they did stop to look at this (the sound study)," said Hamryka.

He contends that his family’s horse business on Duck Thurmond Road will suffer tremendously if the development is approved.

Hamryka’s attorney, Richard Wyngate, contends there are several issues that still need to be addressed, including an inconsistency in the city’s future land use and comprehensive plan, the need for a development of regional impact study and the results of the noise study.

The site, west of downtown Dawsonville, was annexed into the city limits about two years ago. The land is owned by a group that includes members of the Bill Elliott family, long involved in NASCAR and other motorsports. If approved, Porter and his investors would purchase the land, which borders on Duck Thurmond Road and Ga. 53.

Times staff reporter Harris Blackwood contributed to this report.



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