Plans for a motorsports country club in Dawson County hit their first snag Monday night when the Dawsonville Planning Commission tabled the rezoning request until January.
Claire Sharpe, chairwoman of the planning board, suggested delaying Jeremy Porter’s request to rezone more than 150 acres on Duck Thurmond Road in order to explore whether Porter followed procedures in the rezoning process.
Porter said he viewed Monday night as a detour, not a roadblock in his dream to develop the park.
“The planning commission made the right decision,” he said. “I want to do this right.”
At issue is whether the proposal requires a Development of Regional Impact study.
Richard A. Wingate, an attorney representing West and Helen Hamrycka, who own a 30-acre horse farm across the street from the site, contended it does.
Wingate said an impact study, required when multiuse developments exceed 40 acres and have a residential component, should have been conducted before the rezoning request reached the board.
“There is no option to that,” he told the commission. “The board should not approve anything that would circumvent the DRI process.”
But the revised zoning application Porter submitted Monday does not call for any housing. It shows a driving course, car, bike and kart rental, garages and clubhouse, along with shops and retail space.
City Attorney Dana Miles said Porter’s revised application should clear up any talk about an impact study.
The Hamryckas contacted Wingate soon after learning of the proposed motorsports park that would be within view and earshot of the couple’s horse training ring.
“Horses and race cars don’t mix,” Helen Hamricka said. “If you’ve ever ridden a horse on a road, just regular, road safe vehicles going at normal speed limits scare the dickens out of them.
“One of my greatest fears is that ... the loud noise from the racetrack scares one of those children’s ponies, makes it bolt, have them come off and God forbid, get very, very seriously injured.”
The Hamrickas were not alone in their opposition to the proposed park. One by one, residents and local groups aired their concerns about potential noise and impact on the environment, property values and way of life.
Allison Schmitt, who lives within two miles of the site, said she likes the idea but not the location.
“I see great appeal to it and think it’s relevant to Dawsonville,” Schmitt said.
“While I support this type of thing, I think it belongs in an area that is already an established industrial area, with established emissions levels, with established noise levels this is not adjacent to a residential area.”
Schmitt asked planning board members to put themselves in the neighbors’ shoes.
“Imagine your home life being completely destroyed by this,” she said.
“Residents are not just disposable. We invest in the land, and we should not be discarded whenever someone comes in and wants a good deal on a good price on land to do whatever they want.”
Dozens of people came to speak in favor of the development, though few were from the local community.
Charlie Auvermann, executive director of the Development Authority of Dawson County, said that shouldn’t be an issue.
“Tourism is people from outside the county,” Auvermann said. “What you’re trying to bring in is people who will come here, spend their dollars, stay the night perhaps in one of the hotels, enjoy themselves in our county and then go home.
“That means that people who are in support of the tourism projects really should be from outside the county.”
But Helen Hamricka said that’s not enough.
“(Porter) talks about having new people come in, spend their money and then leave,” she said. “I live there. That’s my home, that’s where I conduct my business.
“They will come and go and I will be there. And they will continue to have fun, and my business and my home and my family will be greatly impacted by this development.”
The Dawsonville Planning Commission is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Jan. 26 in the G.L. Pete Gilleland Council Chambers at the Dawsonville Municipal Complex, 415 Hwy. 53 East.
E-mail Michele Hester at email@example.com.