The dirt track is expected to stay quiet this racing season at Gordon Park Speedway.
An Augusta man who wanted to reopen the racetrack - if the county would amend its ordinance regarding the noise level limits around the Grovetown facility - said he has given up in frustration from working with county officials in recent months.
"They knew in December I was trying to open this racetrack," said William Goolsby, who has a three-month lease on the track that runs out in March.
He informed the Columbia County Board of Commissioners at their meeting Tuesday that he was walking away from plans to reopen the track and withdrawing his request for county officials to increase the allowed noise level there.
"I made all these trips before the board and never understood what was going on," he said. "I just went there to present this and let them vote yes or no. Instead, it's all this legal stuff involved in it."
The existing ordinance caps recorded noise level at specific points around the track at 60 decibels. Goolsby said he would need the level at 80 decibels to run races.
Before Goolsby withdrew his request, county commissioners were planning to vote on sending the issue back to Planning and Zoning - recommending that the decibel level not exceed 75 - since it required a change in county ordinance.
Board of Commissioners Vice Chairwoman Diane Ford, who was not at Tuesday's meeting but has been involved with tracking the noise readings at the track, said she was willing to help Goolsby with his plans.
"I thought the 60-decibel (level) needed to be looked at and adjusted," she said. "I did not agree with the 80-decibel, but I thought we were trying to help.
Ford said that the original noise ordinance for the track took a while to initially develop and the issues surrounding an amendment to it was too complex to rush.
"A lot of people like racing. Everybody doesn't play soccer, and everybody doesn't play football," she said. "We tried to reach a happy medium, but I don't know if we're ever going to be able to."
Some neighbors of the track who have vocally opposed the noise level at the track said they were happy about Goolsby's withdrawn request.
"That's good because the neighborhood here has gotten too crowded for loud, noisy racetracks," said Richard Hogue, who lives on Parham Road and has opposed the track since 1992. "If they can run under 60 decibels, then they can do anything they want to do."
One problem county officials have encountered since approached by Goolsby was that when they measured noise levels around the track, ambient noises without cars running sometimes reached more than 60 decibels. A gusty wind or passing vehicle while on Parham Road would cause an uptick on the readers above the allowed level.
Tim Young, a senior planner with the county, said officials would continue monitoring the issue and report back to commissioners.
"It's still something we're going to pursue in terms of informing them and asking their guidance about what to do next," he said. "I'm sure it'll come back one of these days."
The track's owner, Bill "Catfish" Reece, said he does not plan to reopen the racetrack until a legal dispute with the county is cleared up.
"It's a pitiful sight what those people are doing to that track, but I'm going to let my lawyer handle it," he said. "I'm not going to fight with them."
Reece, who owns Catfish Used Cars on Gordon Highway, owned the track between 1991 and 1994 before it changed hands several times and bought it back in 2002. He had offered Goolsby a lease-to-own agreement.
The county has a pending lawsuit seeking an injunction against use of the property for automobile racing. The lawsuit was another issue county commissioners had to consider before resolving Goolsby request.
"I'm not going to open it up again until they get things squared away," Reece said.
Also at Tuesday's board meeting, county commissioners approved making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday for county workers. The workers, who have a total of 11 holidays during the year, would have either their floating or personal holiday dedicated for MLK Day.
Commissioners, ignoring recommendations from the county's Planning Commission, voted 3-1 to grant First National Bank on Columbia Road a variance for the size of a new sign. The sign would be larger than the zoning in the area allows.
The board also gave final approval to a 3 percent increase in water and sewer rates and tap fees. The rate increase will take effect in April.
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