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Vote likely will trigger legal fight

Council approves car park

POSTED: April 15, 2009 4:00 a.m.
Photo/Tom Reed, DCN regional staff/

West Hamryka and his wife, Helen, react Monday to the Dawsonville City Council vote approving the Atlanta Motorsports Park.

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Dawsonville City Council’s decision to approve a high-end motorsports park in western Dawson County signals the start of what opponents vow will be a long and costly legal battle.

  

City Attorney Dana Miles confirmed that an attorney representing West Hamryka, who lives and operates a horse farm adjacent to the property, notified the city of pending litigation before Monday night’s meeting.

  

“We are prepared to take this to the next legal level, due to the city’s improper spot zoning,” Hamryka said after the council’s 4-0 vote. “The city council and mayor have thrown out the land-use plan that they worked on for years.

  

“We are doing this (fighting against the park) to save our community. This legal battle could go on for a long time. We expect it to be lengthy and costly.”

  

Such talk doesn’t bother developer Jeremy Porter, who said opponents are free to spend $100,000 fighting a losing battle.

  

“I’d rather just work with them now, because we are going to continue to develop the park and move forward,” Porter said.

  

The council approved rezoning about 152 acres between Duck Thurmond Road and Hwy. 183 from residential to restricted industrial. Porter said he plans to break ground in about 90 days.

  

Billed as a country club for sports car enthusiasts, the facility will include nearly three miles of high performance road course for two and four wheel vehicles, a members-only lounge, 10,000 square foot clubhouse, pool and hiking trails.

  

Porter, who has worked on the project for more than two years, said he plans to be a good neighbor.

  

The council imposed nearly two dozen stipulations, ranging from limited hours of operation and project start and completion dates to sound monitoring and road improvements at Porter’s expense.

  

Porter said he plans to go above and beyond as he moves forward with his project.

  

“This really is a win for everyone concerned,” he said. “New jobs, economic development even in a bad economy, family entertainment are all part of the positive outcome with the approval of the zoning change to allow us to begin building Atlanta Motorsports Park.

  

“We plan to do everything we can to make this good for the community.”

  

Still, not everyone agrees that Porter has the community’s best interest at heart.

  

Kirk Brookshire, who lives within three miles of the site, has been vocal about his opposition.

  

“There’s a lot of people that have just spent their last dollar in the city of Dawsonville,” he said Monday. “[City council members] don’t have any respect for us and we are surely not going to support this city.”

  

James Thurmond, whose Dawson roots date back several generations, said council members “owe us all an apology.”

  

“It is a shame,” he said.

  

Councilman Jonathan Cox thinks otherwise.

  

“I read the information, thought about it, prayed about it and wrestled with it. I just felt like it was the right thing to do. Based on the stipulations put forth, I believe it will be a success,” he said after the vote.

  

Local racing enthusiast Gordon Pirkle was excited about the council’s decision.

  

“I’ve always thought this was positive,” he said. “I cannot understand the objections. We are in a depression now. We need more jobs and a better tax base.”

  

Preliminary estimates by the Development Authority of Dawson County have indicated the project could bring in as much as $4 million in tax revenue over the next decade.

  

According to Porter, the development would also bring dozens of new jobs to the county.

  

Mayor Joe Lane Cox thinks council did the right thing.

  

“I think the council did a great thing and I think it is going to be good for the city in the long run,” he said.

 

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