Commission makes no decision

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Racing enthusiast and local produce company owner Leo Charette asked Augusta commissioners Tuesday to move on building a drag strip on 235 acres off Hephzibah-McBean Road, but a divided board took no action.

Mr. Charette told commissioners that two feasibility studies have indicated the city would make at least $20 million a year for the city and eventually benefit Augusta as much as the Masters Tournament does.

The city's only investment would be $4.7 million to build the track on property less than two miles from a previously proposed site at Augusta Corporate Park, off Mike Padgett Highway. The property, east of Clark Road, is owned by Augusta attorney Franklin Askin Jr.

Commissioner Andy Cheek, a proponent of the drag strip, asked what the next step would be to get the project moving, and City Administrator Fred Russell said he needed direction from the commission.

Commissioner J.R. Hatney said that he thought the commission had already given that in its last vote on the drag strip and that the only thing needed was a suitable site.

"Is there a problem with the site?" he asked. Mr. Russell said it was not zoned for a race track.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver asked if the surrounding neighborhood had been involved in the process, and the crowd of residents at the meeting said, "No."

Commissioner Jimmy Smith said it was ironic that both of the proposed tracks have been in his district. He said he was amazed that Mr. Charette, who lives in Columbia County, and Roy "Eddie" Salvo, of Beech Island, would ask to build the track in Augusta. Mr. Charette noted that his business is in Richmond County and that he owns two houses in the county.

Commissioner Marion Williams said a study by the International Hot Rod Association said the track would generate $30 million a year, and the city would get $2 out of every ticket sold.

Commissioner Joe Bowles challenged the financial-benefit claims and the $25,000 study the city had done. He said he had pointed out four major flaws to the study's author, who responded by warning him that he would have his attorney take out a restraining order against him if he contacted him further.

Mr. Smith said the location is on a two-lane road with an 80-foot property line for entrance and exit, no city sewerage and a nearby fire station that could be impeded from emergencies by race track traffic.

"I'm not against a drag strip," he said. "I'm against the location. I'm also against the county being involved in it."

At that point, Mr. Copenhaver said there was no proposal on the table for commissioners to vote on, and the commission moved on to other business.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

COMMUNITY PROTESTS SITE


Talk of building a drag strip in another south Augusta location has infuriated residents off Hephzibah-McBean Road, the latest proposed location.


Several residents of the area gathered Tuesday evening on a moment's notice when they learned that the CSRA Help organization will stand with them in opposition to the idea.


"We moved out there to get away from the noise and traffic," Sarah Dutton said. She and her husband, James, added to the list of reasons Augusta should not to get into the drag-strip construction business: at least four assisted living/nursing homes are in the immediate area.


Ray Walker, who worked with Woody Merry of the CSRA Help group to battle the last proposed location for a drag strip, again will work with the residents of the community.


Another residents meeting will be scheduled at the McBean Community Center.


- Sandy Hodson, staff writer

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patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 08/08/07 - 05:27 am
0
0
The surrounding neighborhood

The surrounding neighborhood wasn't involved in the planning? No city sewerage? Bottleneck access? Why does this have to be in Richmond County? Like the last drag strip, this one doesn't seem to pass the smell test either.

Brad Owens
4396
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Brad Owens 08/08/07 - 05:48 am
0
0
Why would the city give Billy

Why would the city give Billy Morris tens of MILLIONS of dollars to build the 'Convention' center at HIS hotel and forgive MILLIONS of dollars in debt to EXPAND this and then put another 25 MILLION dollar expansion to go with it and the parking decks costing in the MILLIONS is to be bonded out by the DDA and the friggin list goes on and on BUT a few million to support the South end of the county? FORGET it! I understand that commissioner Smith has to vote the will of the people but to paly that tired old 'why in South Augusta?' card OVER and OVER is the wrong approch. I guess that folks view drag racing as a redneck sport or something right? Well take a look at NASCAR and see that more people attend NASCAR races than all the pro football games in the NFL! I can understand Joe's point about not wanting public money going into it if it is going to be a private venture but I would point to my opening statements as to who really benifits from those investments and its not really the tax payers but the Riverfront Development Corp owned bay Mr. Morris. Sure we get tax revenues from it but this will generate tax money too. Why not close the Civic Center and give that budget to these guys?

JimCox
7
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JimCox 08/08/07 - 06:36 am
0
0
Bowles is threatened with a

Bowles is threatened with a restraining order because he has questions? That confirms that the "author" was lying in his study. This project is a boondoggle looking for a place to land.

CHIEF
2
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CHIEF 08/08/07 - 06:48 am
0
0
let's get leo to do it all...

let's get leo to do it all...

Little Lamb
45762
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Little Lamb 08/08/07 - 07:18 am
0
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Brad, you are completely

Brad, you are completely correct in the assessment of the Reynolds Street development where city funds have benefitted Mr. Morris. But two wrongs do not make a right. Mr. Charette has not done his homework. He might not be as capable a businessman as he is made out to be.

Ridgeland Dairy
0
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Ridgeland Dairy 08/08/07 - 07:20 am
0
0
I live on Hephzibah-McBean RD

I live on Hephzibah-McBean RD in HEPHZIBAH, GA. Maybe our, City of Hephzibah, Government should also voice its opposition to the Dragstrip which will impact our residences without the economic benefit that Augusta-Richmond County may stand to gain.

Little Lamb
45762
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Little Lamb 08/08/07 - 07:30 am
0
0
It will be crucial for the

It will be crucial for the residents of South Augusta near this proposed site to keep the pressure on the government to stop this harebrained idea from being approved. Hats off to Ray Walker. He was very active and visible in opposition to the Hwy. 56 drag strip. Organization, visibility, courteous discourse - these will help kill this project.

Does_it_really_matter
1
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Does_it_really_matter 08/08/07 - 07:33 am
0
0
I will repeat my comments

I will repeat my comments from yesterday - the city does not need to be in the drag strip business - get on with running the city and let private investors belly up the money for the strip. (Anyone remember our golf course woes?) You guys are right - there is no reason for the city to be in the entertainment business - especially for something that doesn't pass the smell test any better than this. 30 Million a year? that would be a mnimum of 3-4 HUGE races with national ties per year - could Augusta really support that?

Little Lamb
45762
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Little Lamb 08/08/07 - 07:36 am
0
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Does anybody know who this

Does anybody know who this attorney Franklin Askin, Jr. is? Is it possible he is a front man for a corporation that wishes to remain secret? Since he "owns" the property, wouldn't he be a beneficiary of a great gift if the city built a drag strip on his property?

Da Voice Inside Your Head
7
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Da Voice Inside Your Head 08/08/07 - 07:38 am
0
0
The City does not need to be

The City does not need to be involved in this monkey business.Something stinks with this whole drag strip deal. I really am troubled if Marion the Mouth is for it. Has his son in law bought property there too? I think it's interesting that the author of this so cslled study threatened Mr Bowles when he requested information.Again it does not pass the smell test. That the property owners in this area have not been involved in the process is also suspect. Let Leo borrow the money and build it himself. The county has other priorities.

thohen
0
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thohen 08/08/07 - 07:44 am
0
0
We gave up money to clean up

We gave up money to clean up the Lot for the condo's on Reynolds St., so why would this be any different. At least we make some of that money back with all the people coming to town to see the races and spend money. Will the Condo owners give up any profits? I think not.

Little Lamb
45762
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Little Lamb 08/08/07 - 07:51 am
0
0
Thohen has brought up an

Thohen has brought up an interesting topic. It is indeed shameful that our commissioners agreed to pay for the "clean-up" at the condo site. The buyer/developer got the land for a song, and he should be responsible for all site preparation. If you test any soil near an old railroad depot you will find -SURPRISE - some oil contamination in the soil. That does not necessarily mean the soil is hazardous. The city over-reacted to a report of small oil contamination and is spending more than they got for the property to haul the dirt off somewhere (where it will likely be used to fill in someone else's project). These clowns are using the same thinking process to spend more taxpayer money to "re-locate" volunteers in Hyde Park, and that land is less contaminated than the railroad depot.

Interested Citizen
0
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Interested Citizen 08/08/07 - 07:52 am
0
0
Doesn't matter how much Mr.

Doesn't matter how much Mr. Charette owns in Richmond County.......he made his fortune in Richmond County......then he gets too good for Richmond County & moves to Columbia County..GO BUILD YOUR RACE TRACK IN COLUMBIA COUNTY....we do not want one in RICHMOND COUNTY. I pray that the Commissioners will continue to make the decision not to build it. We don't need more trash dumped on us. So Mr. Charette will run it if Richmond County Taxpayers will fund it.....Thanks, but no thanks Mr. Charette.

cdb
0
Points
cdb 08/08/07 - 08:28 am
0
0
We in South Augusta do not

We in South Augusta do not want a Race Track out here. Thank You. And Augusta Commissioners should not get involved with it.

aintryt
189
Points
aintryt 08/08/07 - 08:37 am
0
0
So let me guess...South

So let me guess...South Augusta, particularly the Hephzibah-McBean Rd. area will always be desolate. Can't wait for the Plant Vogtle expansion so I can sell my home surrounded by old singlewides with their kids running the street in their underwear who won't even move out of way when they see a car coming.

Kiki
0
Points
Kiki 08/08/07 - 09:00 am
0
0
No one has mentioned that

No one has mentioned that this land is not only near a fire station, but it also near an elementary school and community center.

bp101
0
Points
bp101 08/08/07 - 09:15 am
0
0
If I thought that this

If I thought that this racetrack would make 20 million a year, and I was Leo Charette, then I would find some investors and build it myself and keep all of the money.

NANF
4
Points
NANF 08/08/07 - 09:16 am
0
0
Marian Williams has his hand

Marian Williams has his hand in this. Beware Augusta, you know your're going to be ripped to the max. Make it go away. Send it to another county. Give them a chance to do a meet and greet with Marion Williams and then send them flowers.

PetsArePeopleToo
0
Points
PetsArePeopleToo 08/08/07 - 09:40 am
0
0
I am planning on attending

I am planning on attending the next meeting to suggests that this property be rezoned and used for low income housing for the persons that are now living in unsavory areas, instead building a race. I am certain that this would benefit the Augusta area in many ways. The persons that are constantly living in fear
and mayhem with constant crime in their neighborhoods, would be able to live in peace and harmony in the country atmosphere.
Perhaps this would allow expansion on MCG , which will provide
extra residential areas for students attending there. In turn with a new low income project out there , perhaps they can also add a few shopping areas and gas stations. Lets expand Augusta and move outwards , that my idea. I mean why lock in a racetrack that operates only on occasions when there could be much more benefit with the housing project? Lets move on with this idea. More houses for the underpriviledged + churches + more gas stations + food stores, dollar stores = more revenue for Augusta . With this idea, the possibilities are endless for outward growth. After all there is already a community center there, and why not add a couple of swimming pools ? What a great idea!

HephLady
0
Points
HephLady 08/08/07 - 09:51 am
0
0
My family and I moved about 2

My family and I moved about 2 years ago to Hephzibah-McBean Rd to get away from all the nosie and traffic thats on Windsor Spring Rd and Mike Padgett Hwy area. I really don't want to move because I love my new house, but if they decide to build the dragstrip, I guess I'll move to Burke County.

johnrdupree
1
Points
johnrdupree 08/08/07 - 09:55 am
0
0
The city really had no choice

The city really had no choice but to clean the condo site. They bought it that way without doing any testing of their own and the only way to make it marketable was to clean it up. Otherwise it would just sit there doing nothing, generating no property tax, or they would have to take the cleanup costs off the price to make it worth the developers time. Nobody would buy it without inspecting it, and nobody would pay fair market value and then pay to clean it. Nobody except the city.

WhatNow
35
Points
WhatNow 08/08/07 - 10:49 am
0
0
Wonder if Marion's son-in-law

Wonder if Marion's son-in-law has purchased any property near this site yet...

Painter
24
Points
Painter 08/08/07 - 11:12 am
0
0
I vote no to the race track .

I vote no to the race track .

PetsArePeopleToo
0
Points
PetsArePeopleToo 08/08/07 - 11:22 am
0
0
Painter can I count of you

Painter can I count of you for support on my idea of low income housing instead?

watching
0
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watching 08/08/07 - 11:23 am
0
0
Gosh, Comm. Jimmy Smith's

Gosh, Comm. Jimmy Smith's statement about Mr. Charette living in Columbia Co. but wanting to partner with the Augusta-Richmond County Government on a business venture further confirms he shouldnt be on the commission. Does he even realize that Cal Ripken lives in another city and Deke is hot on the trail to build a Base Ball Stadium for him, using taxpayers $$$$? It's business Mr. Smith... It's not a sin for someone to live in another city but doing business in/with Augusta-Richmond County or any other county government. Tunnel vision!!! this will surely ruin our lovely city by killing any chances of growth.

alsway
0
Points
alsway 08/08/07 - 11:26 am
0
0
Do any of our elected

Do any of our elected officials listen? No means NO!! Is someone trying to slip something in before they are forced to vacate their post? I hope not! But I will also be on my guard just in case.

jdavis07
0
Points
jdavis07 08/08/07 - 11:30 am
0
0
every year we have the

every year we have the masters we need something besides the masters i don't agree with the location but i do agree we need drag racing in Augusta it will help bring businesses in Augusta the more businesses comes to Augusta Augusta will grow and expand and bring in more jobs so i think Augusta needs to be in the entertainment business if they want to see the city grows in the near future

michelleadams
0
Points
michelleadams 08/08/07 - 11:33 am
0
0
My mom is a land owner in

My mom is a land owner in that area, and she knew nothing about a purposed racetrack. This whole thing is so fishy it reeks.

johnrdupree
1
Points
johnrdupree 08/08/07 - 11:50 am
0
0
Having a track in the county

Having a track in the county isn't a bad idea, but this guy is going about it in the wrong way. You can't just show up at a commission meeting with an idea and a box and ask them to fill it with money. He needs to start by talking with the area residents. Blindsiding the citizens and trying to cram this down their throats will only generate negative feelings and hostility. Next, he needs to show the potential economic impact the facility might create. The studies they have are obviously flawed. Of course the IHRA is going to say positive things and the author of the other study refusing to discuss it? Mr. Charette needs an independent study done by someone not connected to the area. He also needs site plans, renderings, access plans, noise abatement plans, ticket prices, hours of operation, etc. Does he even have a business plan? If this is such a good idea, and it may be, he needs to prove it to the community and the commission and before asking for a dime in support.

PetsArePeopleToo
0
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PetsArePeopleToo 08/08/07 - 12:45 pm
0
0
John can I get your support

John can I get your support fot the housing idea?

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