County opposes drag strip proposal

COVINGTON -- Newton County has submitted a letter to the chairman of the city of Social Circle Planning Commission objecting to a drag strip proposed for north of Interstate 20.

The letter, signed by Chairman Kathy Morgan and all five commissioners, was approved at Tuesday night's Board of Commissioners meeting to be submitted to Kent Adams, chairman of the Social Circle Planning Commission.

"The proposal for a drag strip north of I-20 at the edge of Newton County should be rejected," it states. "A drag strip might bring tourism, restaurants, motels and retailers to the region, but at the high cost of creating an unbearable nuisance for existing residents and of negating many of the development advantages of our area."

The letter goes on to state that the noise produced by the drag strip would make many homes in the area unmarketable and the growth around the drag strip would negate much of Newton County's comprehensive plan by creating mostly service-sector jobs in a low-density area. The plan anticipates residential growth on large lots spurred by development at the Hub, located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 278 and Ga. Highway 11, nearby Georgia Perimeter College, and Stanton Springs on U.S. 278, just east of the Hub.

The letter states that the greatest harm would come to Stanton Springs, the 1,600-acre development owned jointly by Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton counties.

"If you were making a decision about where to locate a facility for your company and you planned to live near your office, the mention of 'drag strip' would likely dampen severely your interest in our area," it states.

Another concern is that the drag strip would cause congestion at I-20 Exit 101, where Stanton Springs is located and potentially exits 98, where Georgia Perimeter is located, and 105, at the town of Rutledge. In addition to congestion, public safety problems could arise due to large crowds, the letter states.

"I-20 is the gateway to your future and ours. A drag strip at Exit 101 would discourage the economic hopes of our area, devalue homes and create a nuisance for Social Circle and the surrounding unincorporated areas. There are dozens of land uses which create jobs and improve the tax base without chasing away the people who want to live in the area for the quiet," the letter states.

The drag strip is proposed by Walton County resident Donnie Clack, who owns NASCAR Lanier National Speedway in Hall County.

The total acreage of Clack's land situated north of I-20 and west of U.S. 278 measures about 320 acres and is in both Newton and Walton counties, near Willow Springs Church Road. The property was annexed into the city of Social Circle in 2008.

Clack is asking that the property be rezoned from agricultural-use (AG2) to general commercial.

The 1/8-mile drag strip would be a part of a larger motorsports complex that will include grandstands, parking area, possible campground/RV park area, playgrounds, motocross track, multiuse arena and staging area.

In December, the Social Circle City Council deferred the rezoning request back to the Social Circle Planning and Zoning Commission for further consideration of special conditions.

The Planning Commission will hold a work session on the drag strip at 6 p.m. Jan. 25 at 138 Hightower Trail.