W.O. "Catfish" Reese just wanted a few months - until the start of the 2003 racing season.
That's all he needed - he told members of the Columbia County Planning Commission last week - to get things in order at Gordon Park Speedway.
"This right here is iron," he said, holding a bright yellow book of racetrack rules. "It's just as hard as the floor in here. It will be in place next year."
Reese asked county planners to allow him an extra hour of racing on Saturday night - ending at 12:30 a.m., instead of 11:30 p.m. - and to grant him blanket permission for Sunday racing in case of rainouts. Under the zoning requirements for the track, Reese would have to get permission for a Sunday race 30 days in advance.
"I do not want to run on Sunday, just to be running on Sunday," he said.
Reese said the extra hour of racing would allow racers who work on Saturdays one more hour to get to the track and get their cars set up for racing.
The racetrack was the focus of several heated zoning meetings in 2000, when a different set of owners pitched Silver Eagle Speedway to planners. Planning commissioners, besieged with complaints from those adjacent to the speedway, OK'd the track with a series of stipulations, including requiring races to end by 11:30 p.m. on Saturdays. There were also noise limitations: noise from the track could not exceed 60 decibels.
Since Reese began operating the track under the Gordon Park name, the noise limits have become an issue. During a test earlier this year, Planning and Development Director Jeff Browning said, noise from the track registers in the mid-70's for most of the race.
Browning recommended planners to not approved Reese's request.
"Our position is 'Don't change anything until the operator becomes a little more judicious in abiding by what is required,"' he said.
Grovetown resident Richard Hogue, who lives next to the track, said he was opposed to any changes at the racetrack. He said zoning laws required the county to enforce what was on the books, and those were the rules in place when Reese bought the track.
"I feel sorry for Mr. Reese because I think he bought a pig in a poke," Hogue said.
He said residents of the area already give up 39 of 52 Saturdays during the year for racing because the cars are so loud, people can't stay outside and hear each other.
"(Allowing Sunday racing) would be putting the property rights of one man ahead of the rights of various neighbors," he said.
County planners agreed to the Sunday racing - only if the rainout occurred after 50 percent of the race had been completed and could be verified by a Columbia County sheriff's deputy working security at the track - but declined Reese's request for an extra hour Saturdays.
"When you bought the racetrack, you bought the conditions that went with it," Planning Commission Chairman Roger Johnson told Reese.
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