Thursday, July 20, 2006
Track operators meet with zoning
By SUE WATSON
Operators of two horse racing tracks in Marshall County, one located on Petty Farms Road and one at Humphrey Road, appeared before the zoning board last week to address concerns about holding events without a permit.
Operators of both tracks were told they could not hold any more horse racing events until they apply for a special exception and have been permitted. The racing tracks are both located in areas zoned agricultural - residential.
Zoning board member Joe Hurdle told the operators of the Humphrey Road race track to bring a list of contractors who built the buildings, have the buildings inspected, and come back to the zoning board next month.
Operators of the Humphrey Road race track told the board members they were rude and negative toward the operators and said the zoning board’s actions were racist.
Blanca Mavez, one of the family partners in the Humphrey Road track operation, said they are not trying to break the rules.
“We just want a business,” she said. “We don’t like people being rude to us.”
Zoning board member Flick Ash responded.
“I don’t think we should give you any kind of permit until there’s a full-fledged hearing,” he said. “It’s not illegal to have horse races in Mississippi, but it’s illegal where you do it, unless you have a permit.”
“Do you all live there?” asked Agnes Foster, one of the five board members.
“No. We asked for a permit and we didn’t build this to live in, so...” Mavez said.
She brought pictures to show the board the buildings at the track.
Humphrey Road resident Delois Love, said the track operators did come by to ask her how the community felt about the events, but only after she and other residents had gone before the board of supervisors to complain about the traffic.
“They listened, but they did not agree with me,” she said. “That Sunday, it was a holiday weekend, and we were inundated with traffic - trucks, cars, trailers, people turning around in our drives. The music was loud and got louder as the night went on.”
“That’s not true,” Mavez said.
The event closed at 8 p.m., she said.
After the meeting, Mavez said the track is located on 101 acres of property owned by the partners.
“We feel that the planning commission is being unfair,” she said. “We feel like they are being racist with us. Every which way we’ve asked, all they say is no, no.
“They talk to the American people and they say, yes, so what’s the difference?”
Mavez said people who live on the same road do not ask them for permission to park on the road when they hold parties.
The operators purchased the property in November 2005 and have held one event, she said.
“The Hispanic people don’t have any kind of recreational activity. This is something the Hispanic people like.”
She added that the planning commission had approved a permit for activities on a 140-acre tract of land for events - a rodeo, four-wheeler racing, etc.
“We can’t have ours,” she said.
“Racism is the main line,” said another of the operators with Mavez.
A horse racing facility on Petty Road is located in county supervisor George Zinn’s district. In a separate interview, Zinn said he is not opposed to horse racing per se, that the events could bring revenue in to the county which is strapped for revenue.
Zinn said he voted against the motion to shut down horse race tracks.
He said he is not opposed to the events provided it does not disrupt community life with traffic congestion and the like.
“I am in favor of letting them (the race track operators) find a suitable place and set up legally,” he said.
“The residents (in the Petty Farm Road area off St. Paul Road) I talked to were concerned about traffic congestion - no other complaint - and I’ve talked to quite a few. I really would not want to just shut them down if they were set up properly.”
Board attorney Tacey Clark Clayton advised the board of supervisors Monday that betting on horse races is illegal in the state of Mississippi.
“The attorney general’s office has advised me that anytime horse racing results in any monetary gain to anyone it would likely be considered betting,”she said. “Zoning can’t give them a permit to do something illegal.”
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