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Raceway approved for Thornburg

Posted on Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Spotsylvania County officials have approved plans for Dominion Raceway in Thornburg.

The Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission held two joint public hearings, then voted Tuesday night to approve a rezoning and a special use permit for the raceway.

Only Planning Commission member Richard Sorrell cast a dissenting vote. Sorrell, who represents the Berkeley District where the raceway will be located, had concerns about noise and traffic.

The raceway still has one significant hurdle: approval from the state Department of Transportation for an entrance on Mudd Tavern Road. The entrance would be closer to Interstate 95 ramps than state guidelines normally allow.

State officials raised a number of objections earlier this year, but the department is expected to make a decision in coming months now that county officials have approved the raceway.

Developers of the speedway have agreed to pay for several highway upgrades, including a traffic light at the I-95 northbound ramps, right and left turn lanes at the raceway entrance, and turn lane improvements at the I-95 southbound ramp.

The raceway will be built on a 160-acre site at the northeastern corner of the Thornburg exit off I-95; it will cost an estimated $10-13 million to build.

The raceway 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.

The vote by the supervisors rezoned the site from agricultural to commercial. The special use permit will allow the drive-in movies and concerts.

Steve Britt, the raceway owner, previously owned Old Dominion Speedway in Prince William County, which closed in 2012 after operating for 60 years. He hopes to have the raceway built in time for the spring 2014 season.

The public hearing on the rezoning request drew about 50 speakers, the majority in favor of the raceway.

Raceway supporters argued the project would be an economic boon. However, critics – many of whom live nearby – expressed concerns about traffic and noise.

According to 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 raceway complex would have an annual economic impact of $10.1 million.

The raceway site borders a tract of land – partly in Spotsylvania and partly in Caroline – that is covered by a Virginia Outdoors Foundation conservation easement.

About 10 people who own land or live in nearby Caroline were active in an opposition coalition, according to its leader, Joyce Ackerman of Thornburg.