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Will Dawsonville race club get a green flag?
Some residents unhappy with plan to build motorsports park
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Signs against and in favor of the proposed Atlanta Motorsports Park line roads in Dawson County. - photo by Tom Reed

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By:

Dawsonville City Council

  • When: City Hall, 415 Ga. 53 E., Dawsonville
  • Where: 6 p.m. Monday
  • Contact: 706-265-3256, www.dawsonville.com

DAWSONVILLE — The walls of the Dawsonville Pool Room are awash with memorabilia of the town's racing legends, most notably former NASCAR champion Bill Elliott.

From the days that fast cars were associated with running moonshine, the town has had a love affair with wheels.

Yet the attempt a decade ago to create a racing attraction failed miserably. The building where the facility known as "Thunder Road" was housed is now Dawsonville City Hall and a much smaller racing hall of fame.

Coincidentally, that building will be the place where the fate of another motorsports complex is decided Monday.

This time, not everyone is cheering.

Jeremy Porter admits he is a gear head. He wants to turn his love for fast cars into a membership country club for people with a passion for cars.

The proposed 152-acre Atlanta Motorsports 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.

"This is not a racetrack," Porter says emphatically. "It is a motorsports country club. We will not have spectator events, overhead lights or a PA system."

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 Elliott family. If the project is approved, Porter and his investors would purchase the land, which borders on Duck Thurmond Road and Ga. 53.

While some welcome the proposed park, there are many who do not. The county is dotted with signs urging opposition to the park.

The decision rests with the Dawsonville City Council, which will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday.
Steve Holder, the city's planning director, is expecting a capacity crowd.
"We've had big crowds at the two previous meetings," Holder said.

The city's planning board has recommended the rezoning of the property, increasing the resolve of the opponents to fight the park.

Helen Hamryka and her husband, West, a veterinarian, bought their 70-acre farm on Duck Thurmond Road in 1995 and have built their home and barns, where they stable hunter and jumper show horses.
Helen's mother and father, Sam and Lynne Horner have a second-story home above one barn.

"My concerns are many," said Helen Hamryka. "We moved here for peace, quiet, land and a rural way of life. I grew up on a horse farm in Alpharetta and we moved up here because it got too crowded."

Her property is across the road from the proposed park. "Quite frankly, I was shocked," she said. "How could they think that a motorsports park with go-karts, motorcycles and race cars belongs in a rural area. There is nothing commercial out here."

Helen Hamryka has private customers for whom she boards and trains their horses. She believes the first sound of a screeching tire or loud muffler at the motorsports park will be the end of her business.
"I train young horses, I train children on ponies and hunters and jumpers," she said. "They are not trained to be police horses, who are accustomed to loud noises. They're trained to perform at horse shows. Horses are very unpredictable."

She is not excited about the prospects of a new neighbor. "They can call it what they want, but it's a racetrack," she said.

Not so, says Porter. "It's where people with fast, fun cars can come and drive in a safe environment," Porter said.

"Most of our clientele drive the same car you would see on the street with Georgia license plates."He said that 85 percent of his members would be driving cars that produce sound between 65 and 80 decibels.

"That's the equivalent of a vacuum cleaner," he said.

Porter has been asked to return to Monday night's hearing with a professional sound and environmental impact study. He contends that the buffer of trees will muffle the sound.

The Hamrykas purchased full-page advertisements in this week's edition of both Dawson County newspapers, saying the impact may be felt in a 20-mile radius, including the mountain home retreat, Big Canoe, to the west.

Porter has scaled down his original application, which included residential condominiums and a retail center.

"In the conceptual design, the developers said to put that (residential and retail) on there and that will make it more valuable," Porter said. "That's never been part of the business plan. It was only to see if anybody had an interest."

He accused his detractors of a number of underhanded tactics, including obtaining his e-mail list to distribute information against the park. But he remains hopeful that he will prevail Monday.

Hamryka is equally hopeful and said if the city agrees to the park, she and her husband are prepared to challenge the ruling in court.

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