Her decision followed much thought and first-hand research, the commissioner said.
The property off Ga. 136 behind Confederate Garage, both owned by Roger Angland, is zoned residential. Heiskell gave the go-ahead to rezone the property for “conditional” use. This means the property can only be used, in a commercial way, for a racetrack.
When the commissioner announced her decision, Angland said he “was tickled to death. It’s what I was hoping for.”
“I don’t want to rezone it to commercial, because I think the only other use for the land, if it were rezoned commercial, is a junkyard,” Heiskell said.
The mud racetrack will include seating for nearly 2,000 spectators, Angland said.
Prior to Thursday’s meeting, Commissioner Heiskell visit the property twice and commercial businesses near the area. She said business owners had a positive reaction.
One concern of neighbors was possible noise during the races. However, the planned racetrack site is in a very low area of the 42 acres, Heiskell said.
“I took Paine Gily, the county’s environmental specialist, to the property, and we spent two hours with a decibel meter,” Heiskell said. “We went to all points of the property and to the road to test the noise.”
She said they measured the sound levels while Angland ran one of his racing vehicles on the planned track site. “The decibel levels are not high and the sound carries more in cold weather than warm,” Heiskell said.
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Angland said the races would be three to four seconds each, with intervals between each one.
“I watched two videos of races on similar mud tracks in Benton, Mo., and Ashland City, Tenn., where Angland ran (his vehicle), and the loudest thing on the tape was the announcer,” she said.
There will be stipulations on the track so as not to disturb neighbors, she said. It will not be used for anything else, such as practice — only four times a year for the actual events.
Some people thought the track noise would be similar to the Brainerd Optimist drag strip, and it’s not going to be that way, Heiskell said.
One opponent who attended both last week and this week’s commissioner’s meeting was Karla Sampson. She is not opposed to growth in Walker County but was concerned for her mother’s health, she said. Her mother suffers from asthma and emphysema, Sampson said.
“If he sticks to the conditions that are on the property, I think we will be okay. He is going to let us know the race schedule ahead of time so if we have to make other arrangements for my mother, we can,” she said.
Sampson and some of the other opposing neighbors talked with Angland following Thursday’s meeting. “I wanted to make sure the neighbors didn’t have any hard feelings,” Angland said.
He plans to start the bulldozing work to clear some brush, stumps and for the road trails. He would like to have a race by the end of the summer.
The cars will run off of a type of high-octane fuel, with emissions cleaner than most cars on the road, Angland said.
Angland plans to create a family environment around the track. Alcohol will not be allowed at the races.
“I think there is a place for it. It’s in the best economic interest in Walker County,” Heiskell said.
Petitions with more than 1,200 names supporting the track also factored into Heiskell’s decision.
The races will be on Saturdays only, lasting about five hours in the afternoon. Angland thinks cable stations might televise the events because they will be sanctioned through the National Mud Racing Association.
Angland hopes this will give local kids something positive to do with their spare time instead of getting into drugs.
He is offering Commissioner Heiskell the first race on the track when it opens