City of Dawsonville residents are shaking their heads after Monday night's planning commission meeting during which the commission voted to recommend amendments to the Atlanta Motorsports Park zoning stipulations for the city council to approve.
The 2-1 vote means that park owner Jeremy Porter is one step closer to obtaining amendments to stipulations that were set in place when the property was changed to its current zoning. The amendments include the addition of lights to the park's go-kart track, an extension of the hours that the karts will be operated, the addition of a PA system and would lift some noise restrictions in the park on 15 days each year.
The March 13 hearing came after the application was tabled at the planning commission's February meeting. The extra month was to give Porter and his lawyer time to consolidate their requests into one document, as well as to give the commission and planning staff time to research the issue thoroughly. This included visiting the motorsports park to hear the noise level firsthand.
Due to the research, as well as discussion from opposed neighbors, the final requests varied from the original application.
Porter is still asking for extended hours on the "low-noise" go-kart track, but only between April 1 and Oct. 31, when the hours would be extended to 10 p.m. on weekdays, 11 p.m. on Saturdays and 9 p.m. on Sundays.
The original request asked for hours for go-kart operation be extended to 11 p.m. on weekends.
Normal hours of operation are currently 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Nov. 1 to March 31, and from 7 a.m. (or one hour after sunrise, whichever is earlier) to 8 p.m. (or one hour after sunset, whichever is earlier) from April 1 to Oct. 31.
Because the amendment would extend the hours that the go-karts are operated to later in the day, this would necessitate the installation of LED light fixtures to illuminate the track.
The original stipulations require that any exterior lighting be box type, situated so that light only goes downward and not be more than 25 feet high. The amended stipulations would allow for the lights to be directional and situated so that the light only goes downward and are not more than 50 feet high. The 50 foot light poles are also limited to being placed near the go-kart track.
The original stipulations also state that there will be no PA system installed or operated on the site. The application asks for a PA system that will not exceed 98 A-weighted decibels (DBa) at 50 feet and not be designed to broadcast to the perimeter of the property.
The new amendments would also decrease the number of special event days from the amount originally requested.
The original request stated that main track activities and hours may be varied during holidays, which constitutes up to 14 days, and for up to 10 additional days after that. The request also included lifting the noise ordinance during that time. The application stated that "such additional days must be Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays or days that are immediately before or immediately after a holiday."
The application now states that special event days would be limited to 15 total days per calendar year. If the event days are more than two days in a row, they must include a Saturday and not ever be more than four sequential days in a row. The sound restrictions would not be waived but modified to 14 DBa louder than the normal 98. The sound restrictions would only be lifted for Fourth of July celebrations.
The application also originally requested that a buffer that is around the perimeter of the property be removed. The new application retains the language that requires a buffer around the perimeter of the property.
After hearing Porter's lawyer present the new application, many neighbors of the motorsports park spoke against the request.
Helen Hamryka, who lives on Duck Thurmond Road, said she understands Porter has adjusted some of his requests to accommodate the concerns that the public had in the last meeting, but that she is still concerned about the noise level.
"The 112 max DBa during the events is still a 14 decibel increase regardless of where you measure it from, and that is still exceptionally loud on those 15 days," Hamryka said. "I appreciate that his request went from 24 days to 15 days max, but that still includes all the holidays and people that live around the area would not be able to enjoy their facilities on those days."
Planning Commissioner Steve Sanvi said that the city will be working with the motorsports park to monitor the sound levels going forward.
"I believe these gentlemen are working towards a resolution to make the community happy," said Sanvi. "The city is also going to work to get some equipment of their own. If there is any complaints in the future, those complaints will go directly to the city manager, they won't be referred back to AMP. So we've got a code enforcement with the city and we'll be following up on those."
Planning and Zoning Permit Technician Nalita Copeland stated that the city had already ordered its own sound monitoring equipment.
Copeland said that the city recommended that on the 10th of each month, the motorsports park would have to submit sound records to the city for City Manager Bob Bolz to examine. If the sound regulations are not followed, the city would issue a $1,000 fine. After three violations, the motorsports park would lose its license.
Commission member Ken Breeden motioned to recommend approval of the new application as amended by the staff. Sanvi seconded the vote it was passed 2-1, with commission member Stan Worley opposed.
"Our job, and this is not a paid job, we do this as a public service, our job is to try and put some balance into things," Breeden said. "We've come here with a staff report that has gone a long way towards responding to many of your complaints from last month. It's cut in half the number of unlimited days. But we don't have the authority to make a decision about this, the decisions will be made by the city council."
The application will be seen before the city council at its April 3 meeting.
The Atlanta Motorsports Park is on Duck Thurmond Road, at 80 Joe Lane Cox Road, in Dawsonville. The property was annexed into the city in 2007, and the park opened in 2012.