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Developer offers peek at car park site

POSTED: November 23, 2008 5:00 a.m.

An invite-only crowd will be the first to tour the property where Jeremy Porter hopes to open a sports car country club in rural western Dawson County.

  

Porter seeks to rezone more than 200 acres on Duck Thurmond Road to develop Atlanta Motorsports Park, a playground for motorsports enthusiasts.

  

A private reception is planned for Saturday at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in Dawsonville, followed by group tours of the site on all-terrain vehicles, Porter said.

  

The project, slated to open by the end of summer 2009, proposes a Le Mans-style driving course nearly three miles long, including two straightaways nearly 2,000 feet in length.

  

The site, currently owned by Ernie Elliott, was annexed into Dawsonville in fall 2007.

  

Once the course is complete, the project’s second phase calls for a 10,000-square-foot clubhouse with locker rooms, high-definition televisions, a patio overlooking the course and members-only lounge with fingerprint access.

  

Other planned amenities include a pool, tennis courts, hiking trail and garage and storage areas for driving trailers.

  

Porter, a Forsyth County resident, calls the project a God-given vision that has “absolute recession resistance and actually tends to peak in those type of environments ... because people want to have a good time when times are tough.”

  

He said he had families in mind when he designed the project, which is why the park would not allow alcohol.

  

“I really see the need for a place for families to get together and bond, to have a good family moral atmosphere to get together,” he said.

  

Porter, who is waiting approval from the city of Dawsonville, hopes to break ground as early as February.

  

He will present environmental impact and traffic studies next month when he asks city council to rezone the site from agricultural to commercial.

  

Steve Holder, Dawsonville’s planning director, said he intends to recommend approval with several stipulations, including regulated hours of operation, crowd restrictions and a ban on lighting on the track, which would eliminate night driving.

  

Porter has also hired a professor at Georgia Tech to study sound and noise, two issues with which nearby residents have voiced concern.

  

Porter said he plans to take every precaution to ensure nearby residents are not affected negatively by the motorsports park.

  

“The plan is to leave a 200 feet tree buffer with dirt berms to further reduce sound,” he said. “We want to regulate the noise out of the gate.”

  

He added that drivers will be required to minimize the decibel levels on their vehicles.

  

Drivers who exceed the regulated sound pressure levels would be “black flagged,” Porter said, and taken off the track. Two back flags in a year could result in expulsion from the club.

  

“We will not play around,” he said.

  

The driving course and club would be open only to members. Not designed as a racetrack, the course would not play host to events or draw crowds beyond its membership.

  

Charlie Auvermann, executive director of the Development Authority of Dawson County, estimated the project to be a $4 million tax boost to Dawson County over the next eight to 10 years.

  

Based on the success of the first two phases, a third phase could include residential, commercial and resort components, which could bring the total project cost to $50 million.

  

The biggest challenge in the process, said spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne, has been “communicating correctly to all the different folks who need to know about this.”

  

“It’s a driving course, not a racetrack, and we believe that very strongly ... it’s a different animal entirely,” he said.

  

There are similar motorsports parks in New Jersey, Chicago and Texas, among other places, with top names like Mario Andretti as investors.

  

E-mail Michele Hester at michele@dawsonnews.com.

 

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