Thursday, July 12, 2006
Board considers injunction against horse racing tracks
By SUE WATSON
Two horse racing tracks operating in Marshall County without permits could face claims by the county in circuit or chancery court.
After public outcry against the noise and traffic generated at such race tracks, board attorney Tacey Clark Clayton recommended Monday the board ask for an injunction citing the horse races as a nuisance.
Delois Love, a resident on Humphrey Road, a dead-end road in supervisor Willie Flemon’s district, and Hardy Allen were back in the board room for a second time asking for stronger action to close the race tracks.
“The traffic is horrendous. Hoards and hoards are there on weekends,” Love said. “I feel like we’re being invaded.”
Love cited a board order to cease and desist at a meeting about a month ago. Zoning had supported the Humphrey Road residents, saying the property in the area is zoned agricultural.
Horse racing would be allowed only as a special exception, but the operators of the track have not requested a permit.
“It seems like people who own (the land) just ignored the law and had the (another) event anyway,” said Love.
Flemon placed his support once again with the residents.
“I’m pushing hard and standing shoulder to shoulder with the residents on that road,” he said. “People are coming in (to the county) and invading our zoning. I stand 110 percent behind zoning.”
Zoning director Conway Moore and Sheriff Kenny Dickerson discussed the matter with close to 10 residents at the meeting voicing opposition to horse racing in their communities.
“The zoning laws the county has in place would forbid this type of activity, but once they do it, they can be cited (ticketed),” Dickerson said.
He said he has no authority to shut the race tracks down, that an order from a judge is where the matter has to be resolved.
“Without a petition filed at circuit court and a judge could issue and order and injunction,” he said. “Without an injunction, I cannot go shut them down. We (the board of supervisors) have to go through the process.”
Love said the traffic affected the whole community, not just Humphrey Road residents.
“I don’t think you have a problem here that cannot be addressed with this board and the zoning board,” Dickerson said.
Citizens were asked to wait while a call was put in to Clayton, who was unable to be at the meeting, at the suggestion of Flemon.
The race track has planned another event on Sunday, one resident said.
Moore reported back to the board that Clayton had advised the county supervisors to petition the court.
Allen, who was at the meeting to support Humphrey Road residents, alleged that more was taking place at the track than racing horses.
“They didn’t go there and spend all that money just to have a horse race,” he said.
Flemon called the operators decision to ignore the board order “a slap in the face of our zoning, of our sheriff and our board of supervisors.”
He alleged the operators were from outside Marshall County.
“I don’t like for anybody invading my district or the county,” he said. “These ordinances are set up to be carried out.”
Supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett agreed, adding that he understood no more racing would take place after the board’s first decision.
“Are we to understand, are they going to be able to continue this until we go to court?” he asked.
The residents then then added that there was drinking and beer bottles left in the road and trash left at the end of the road.
Love said the vehicles that came in to the races are tagged from all over, but the majority had Shelby County license plates.
In a prepared statement, George Powell said another race track has been operating in his neighborhood.
“On exactly this same issue, there is another track identical to this one on Humphrey Road,” Powell said. “I was recently advised the plug had been pulled on it.
“In the interest of fairness and of carrying out justice, if nothing else, it is the same slap in the face as in Mr. Flemon’s district, for us to have an identical situation, for it to go on, and for it not to be addressed. It’s not fair to the landowners and residents.
“I would ask for the same action as against Humphrey’s (track) and include any event that is operating illegally and unjustly in our county.”
Other residents with Love speaking out on the issue included Harold German and George Goodman of Humphrey Road.
“We are doing both Humphrey Road and Petty Road,” Moore assured.
“That’s my understanding,” said supervisor George Zinn, of District 4.
“The board attorney is starting paperwork today to declare this a nuisance to the community,” Moore said. “I notified Petty Road and sent Humphrey Road a notice also, the same day. The petition will be for both.”
Complaints about racing on Petty Road are coming more from residents living on St. Paul Road, Moore said in a separate interview Monday. She said she understood that traffic is so bad after the races on Petty Road that people have to stand and block traffic on Highway 309 while horse race traffic exits St. Paul on to Highway 309.
Warning District 5 residents against operating any such business without a permit, Bennett added there was activity at a stable in his area.
“I don’t want any horse racing down there, no drinking, no gambling, no running around and a whole bunch of structures built (for events),” he said. “It’s zoned agricultural/residential.”
Supervisors said the new zoning ordinances and land use plan adopted by Marshall County last year, require any event operator(s) who charge admission and/or sell beer to apply to the zoning board for a permit. The permit, if approved, lets zoning and the board of supervisors know who to contact in event there are complaints. Beer cannot be sold at events without a state and local license.
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