Applications filed for Thornburg speedway

The operator of Old Dominion Speedway in Prince William has filed applications with Spotsylvania County officials to develop a new racetrack and entertainment facility in the Thornburg area.

Steve Britt, who revealed his plans last fall to bring the speedway to Spotsylvania, submitted the applications this week and is seeking an expedited process to review his request.

Britt wants the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors and county’s Planning Commission to hold a joint public hearing on his applications. Usually, a county planning commission considers such an application independently, holds a public hearing, and makes a recommendation to governing body, and then a board of supervisors goes through the same public hearing process before making a decision.

Map depicts location of proposed speedway and adjacent land covered by a conservation easement.

Britt wants to begin construction in May and to open the raceway complex by the spring of 2014.

He is seeking to develop the speedway on a 160-acre site at the northeastern corner of the Thornburg exit off Interstate 95; it would cost an estimated $9.6 million to build. Britt’s applications are for rezoning to allow the raceway and a special use permit to allow drive-in movies and concerts.

The public hearing process is likely to draw supporters and opponents of the plan. An opposition group has formed called the Coalition to Preserve the Thornburg Countryside, and the group includes people who live or own land in nearby Caroline. (The coalition has a website at: www.stoptheraceway.com.)

The proposed raceway site borders a tract of land – partly in Spotsylvania and partly in Caroline – that is covered by a Virginia Outdoors Foundation conservation easement. In a letter to the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors, G. Robert Lee, executive director of the foundation, said land covered by the casement provides habitat for herons, ducks, geese, hawks, and eagles; it also is potential habitat for an endangered mussel.

According to the application documents, the speedway would draw an estimated 160,000-170,000 annual visitors, mostly from outside Spotsylvania and employ up to 10 full-time workers and 40 part-time with an annual payroll of $1.5 million. The speedway complex would have an annual economic impact of $10.1 million.

The speedway would operate from mid-February until October, offering stock car racing, drag strip racing, a road course, and kart racing. A three-story entertainment complex with a large screen could be used year-round for concerts, festivals, drive-in movies, and other events. The concerts potentially would be the biggest draw, attracting up to 9,000 people.

About 10 people who own land or live in nearby Caroline are active in the opposition coalition, according to its leader, Joyce Ackerman of Thornburg. She also is contact with “a lot more” who are “really upset by this thing,” including residents of Lake Caroline and Lake Land’Or. The proposed site  is not far from land in Caroline owned by the family of Del. Robert Orrock.

Noise from races would travel well into Caroline, acknowledged Ackerman. “Oh, definitely. Oh, yeah. That’s why so many people” in Caroline communities oppose the proposed speedway, she said.

Members of some hunt clubs are opposed, too, because of the negative impact on land where they hunt, said Ackerman.

Noise generated by the speedway would be heard for up to 10 miles away, according to a consultant who prepared a report for the coalition. However, supporters of the proposed speedway have countered that it will not include the type of race cars the produce the loudest noise or the kind of race cars referenced in the study.

The project also would require major improvements to the interstate 95 exit, said Ackerman, including construction of a cloverleaf and widening the overpass over the highway.

Spotsylvania’s comprehensive plan calls for the area to be developed for business and office parks and some related retail, she said, “but this is going to take that away.”

Encroaching residential development and complaints about noise prodded Britt into looking for rural sites to relocate the Prince William track, which had been in place for 60 years.

Posted on Friday, January 25, 2013 at 2:56 pm