The commission had two issues to
discuss: the development of a racetrack and the development of a new
subdivision. Each issue had two items, the second item dependent on
approval of the first, in each case.
The greatest question of the evening
was whether neighbors to the Logan County Fairgrounds or others
might oppose the development of a race car track at that site. All
neighbors within 150 feet of the fairgrounds had been notified of
It was the racetrack issue that packed
the room, and the commission began their work there.
The first area of business was to
consider a request from the Lincoln City Council to amend the C-1
and C-2 District with a "special use" that includes automobile
racing. The Logan County Fairgrounds is C-2.
According to Bill Bates, the city
attorney, special use is something that is allowed in a certain
category, but only after a public hearing before the planning
commission, and then their recommendation goes back the city
council. Each special use is considered separately. So approval of
this amendment would not automatically make it possible to start a
racetrack on any C-1 or C-2 property without going through several
channels for approval.
In a 5-1 vote the commission approved
the special use car racetrack amendment to C-1 and C-2 districts.
Don Miller was the only "no" vote. He gave no reason for his
With item one of issue one out of the
way, Gary Baugh and Norm Horn of B&H Racing Enterprise were invited
to present their business plan to bring car racing to the Logan
County Fairgrounds. Baugh brings over 40 years racetrack experience,
including design and operation of a racetrack in Bloomington.
"Our number one goal in doing this is
to have a family atmosphere," Baugh said. The B&H mission statement
reads as follows: "Provide a racing program that is efficient in
time, fair and consistent to the race drivers, entertaining to the
race fans and affordable entertainment to the community."
In conjunction with this attitude,
Baugh said, "We have a responsibility to the community, the race
fans and the drivers, and ourselves to put on a complete, well-run,
fair, consistent, entertaining racing program."
Baugh then went down a list of criteria
they have set:
--Admission and concession costs will
be kept affordable for families
--No alcohol will be sold or served. We
believe that "alcohol and racing don't mix," he said.
--A quarter-mile track will be
constructed inside the half-mile horse-racing track.
--A foot and a half (about 200
truckloads) of heavy clay will be laid to minimize dust.
--Additional lighting and safety walls
will all be movable to permit other continued uses of the infield,
such as when balloons set up there for the balloon fest.
--Spectators will also be protected by
a catch fence.
--Parking will be permitted inside the
fairgrounds (at no additional fee) through the south gate only. This
will minimize traffic congestion around the fairgrounds.
--Three self-contained concession
stands are planned to serve the crowds.
--It is estimated that the average
attendance will be 1,500.
--Events will probably be on Sundays in
May through September with the exclusion of the balloon fest and
--Proposed hours will be 5:30 to 10:30
The design takes into consideration the
protection of the horse racetrack, Baugh said. "We know that the
horse-racing program in the Lincoln area has always been a big
event. We want to minimize any impact that our program would have on
that," he said.
[to top of second column in this
The business has agreed to provide the
fairgrounds board with a sizable sum of money up-front that will
return the infield of the fairgrounds to its original condition.
The city will benefit from additional
revenue of 2,000 people in town for the races. This will mean
increased revenues, particularly for food and fuel businesses.
Baugh said that 95 percent of
racetracks in the Midwest are within the city limits. Other
communities have dealt with the same issues and have thrived right
around the racetracks.
The business owners have considered
other locations but say the Lincoln is the best choice. But
everything considered, with a successful racetrack here years ago
and lots of racing enthusiasts in the area, this is a "natural fit,"
Only six people signed up to speak.
Five of them -- Vernon Charron, Jack Barry, Irv Guyett of Collision
Concepts, Fox Sanders and Greg Brinner
-- have strong racing
backgrounds, and they spoke strongly in favor. They said that racing
is a good family sport.
Brinner, also a local realtor, said
that property values do not decline when a track goes in. Neighbors
typically acclimate to the sound just like those near a highway or
Barry felt that it is uncommon not to
have beer sold for this type of event and thought that it would be
better to have one of the local clubs set up their tent or truck.
The one exclusion to full support came
from a representative of the horse owners who stable and train their
horses at the grounds. Rodney McCray said he was neither for nor
against the car racetrack, but he says he would like to be able to
sit down and discuss what needs to happen to maintain the track that
is already on the fairgrounds.
McCray said he would like to preserve
another family-oriented activity that already exists there: horse
training and racing. He stables some of his horses at the grounds
and trains them on the track at least 300 days of the year. He has
concerns about maintaining the quality of the horse track.
McCray said there has been damage to
the horse track following the demolition derby at the county fair.
The horse owners have had to handle that cleanup.
He also noted that at other county
fairgrounds the car races appear to have run the horsemen off. He
believes this has happened through lack of communication and would
like to begin by sitting down together to talk and keep those lines
He is concerned for the maintenance of
the soft limestone track. He is not sure how the barriers may affect
Baugh acknowledged that cars will cross
the track and it will need fixing weekly. He says that they are more
than ready to do the half-hour of work it will take to reset the
track each week. And, he agrees that it is important to work
With no written or verbalized
opposition received before the meeting and no apparent unresolvable
issues, the commission voted 5-1 (Miller, again, was the only "no"
vote) to approve the special use for car racing at the Logan County
Fairgrounds for B&H Enterprises.
The commission will recommend both the
amendment of special use for racing in a C-1 and C-2, as well as
approval of the new special use of this amendment for B&H
Enterprises at the Logan County Fairgrounds, for approval to the
The council has both items of this
issue on their agenda to vote on at next Tuesday's meeting, which
begins at 7:15 p.m.
A brief announcement was made that the
commission had more business on another matter. It was suggested
that those who were there for the racetrack issue only could leave
if they wished to.
abruptly erupted in chuckles and emptied quickly. The air thinned.
But the satisfied murmurings continued to permeate the chamber doors
from those who gathered outside to glow in the vision of a