Perhaps W.O. "Catfish" Reese doesn't know about the history of the speedway he bought in Columbia County. He should. It was the focus of several heated zoning meetings in 2000 when owners pitched the Silver Eagle Speedway to the county planning commission.
Neighboring Grovetown residents were concerned that, due to the decibel level of the race cars, the Saturday night competitions would disrupt the quietude of their neighborhood.
After much debate and negotiations - and in the interests of strengthening the local economy - planners gave the speedway a green light to operate, providing the last race ended at 11:30 p.m. and that noise levels would not exceed 60 decibels.
There were some grumblings, but for the most part the raceway and its neighbors coexisted - that is, until Reese bought the track and rechristened it the Gordon Park Speedway. Then the crash: Tests conducted earlier this year indicated noise levels over 70 decibels in several races.
Yet Reese is asking that Saturday night racing be extended by one hour, to 12:30 a.m. He also seeks permission for Sunday racing in the event of Saturday rainouts.
The planning commission, whose recommendations must be approved by the county commission, OK'd the Sunday racing request under certain carefully defined conditions, but turned the extra hour request down cold.
This was the right thing to do, particularly since Reese's races were exceeding the noise level. One ought not reward violations with new privileges.
Also, Reese knew the county's rules for racing when he bought the track; he shouldn't balk at them now. And if he knew the history of the track and its neighbors, he shouldn't have held out much hope for changing the rules, even if he were staying within the noise limits.
One Grovetown complainant said he felt sorry for Reese - that "he bought a pig in a poke." Could be he's right. But neighbors shouldn't have to suffer the consequences. The county commission should uphold the planners' ruling next month.
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