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Drag strip rezoning withdrawn, may come back

SOCIAL CIRCLE -- A proposed drag strip in Social Circle is off the table, at least for now.

The Social Circle City Council unanimously accepted Tuesday a request by land owner Donnie Clack to withdraw his rezoning petition without prejudice.

Clack sent a letter to the council through his attorney, Michele Battle, in March requesting the withdrawal.

Because he withdrew his request without prejudice, Clack can reapply for rezoning at a later date.

Social Circle resident Karen Paules asked the City Council Tuesday to insist that Clack have all the documentation necessary before it schedules any public meetings should he reapply for rezoning.

"Before the first hearing is called, I would ask that you make sure his application is complete," Paules said. "It's a waste of the city's time and ... taxpayer dollars to have these meetings when the information is not complete. ... I would venture to say that we who are against (the drag strip) have provided more documentation to Planning and Zoning that Mr. Clack did. It's a waste of time."

Clack had sought to rezone more than 320 acres between Interstate 20 and U.S. Highway 278 from agricultural use to general commercial with special conditions to construct a motorsports complex. The anchor of the motorsports complex -- and the most polarizing aspect -- would be a 1/8-mile drag strip.

Clack's rezoning request has been met with opposition from many in the community since the Planning and Zoning Commission took up the issue in November. The City Council was slated to take action on his request in December, but it referred the matter back to the Planning and Zoning Commission to define the special conditions.

Many homeowners in the area -- most of whose property and neighborhoods abut Clack's land -- contended the drag strip would adversely impact their properties with increased noise, traffic and pollution.

A group of residents has come together to form Concerned Citizens of Social Circle, whose goal is to build opposition to the drag strip and urge the Social Circle City Council to deny the rezoning request.

The group has established a Web site, disseminated petitions, gathered information about other drag strips and held monthly meetings.

On the other side, Clack has helped organize Citizens For the Motorsports, which has also put out yard signs, posted a Web site and held a couple of informational meetings.

A state legislator has also gotten involved in the debate.

Clack's property in question lies in both Walton and Newton counties, although most of it is in Newton County and was annexed into the city of Social Circle in 2008. State Rep. Doug Holt, R-Social Circle, said he heard from a number of Newton County residents who were unhappy about the proposed drag strip. As a result, he crafted legislation that would have de-annexed the Newton County portion from Social Circle. In order for the legislation to have made it through the Legislature, the other two state legislators representing Social Circle -- Rep. Jeff May of Monroe and Sen. John Douglas of Social Circle -- would have had to sign on. A contingent within the Concerned Citizens of Social Circle expressed interest in pursuing the de-annexation, but they were unable to generate enough momentum before the end of this year's General Assembly.

In January, a committee consisting of Planning Commission members, CCOSC members and Clack, met for a work session dedicated to discussing citizens' concerns about Clack's plans. During that meeting, Planning Commission members tasked Clack with presenting more specific details about his business plan, how he will address concerns about increased traffic, air and water pollution, as well as the mitigation of excessive noise and light from the drag strip.

In March, Clack announced he would withdraw his request and was willing to revise his site plans, moving the drag strip further toward the interior of his property and constructing a separate road connecting U.S. 278 with the drag strip.