Tribune-Courier News Reporter
The Fiscal Court granted a state-required entertainment permit to the new owners of the Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway Thursday, but an opponent has threatened to file a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the racetrack.
Gary Smith, a Calvert City dentist who joined in the court’s discussion Thursday, said he is considering at attempt to block racing at the track past 10 p.m.
Smith’s complaint is that the noise is a nuisance to him and other residents in the vicinity of the track, at the junction of Interstate 24 and the Purchase Parkway near Gilbertsville and Calvert City.
The court set a time frame of 6:30-11:30 p.m. for cars to be racing on the 3/8-mile dirt oval. The new owners plan to stage races every Saturday night as weather permits between March and October.
Smith said he will consult with an attorney to explore his options. He alleges detrimental health impacts from noise levels associated with auto racing.
An adversary of the track ever since it opened in 1997, Smith said an 11:30 p.m. finish time is too late and fears the limits will be pushed beyond that by track management.
“Work always expands to fit the time given,” he said. “The community is going to be taking the hit here. If you set the time at 11:30 it’ll be 11:30 every time.”
Speedway general manager Tommy House refuted that assertion. He said it was the intent of the owners to get the raceway closed each night as soon as possible, not only to be a good neighbor but also to minimize operating expenses.
He estimated it will cost as much as $500 per hour to keep security and emergency personnel on hand, as is required by insurance, plus an increased electric bill to keep the track lights on for a longer period of time. He added that the new management is intent on running a tight program.
“We don’t want to be there late,” he said. “We want to shut down and go home. My wife and I go to church on Sunday morning, just like everybody else.”
He said the track plans to run a limited number of classes of stock cars, four, instead of the normal six to eight classes in order to streamline the program, at least in the initial months of operation.
“We’re not trying to cause any problems here,” House said.
House thanked the members of fiscal court for their consideration of the permit request and acknowledged that previous owners did not abide by reasonable restrictions on hours of operation, and asked for the chance to prove that the new owners are better stewards of the business.
Smith insisted on a deadline of 10 p.m., but Judge Executive Mike Miller said he felt that would get in the way of the raceway’s ability to succeed.
“It’s our responsibility to help them be as successful as they can be, but our role is also to set reasonable hours of operation,” Miller said. “We have to balance that with the people who live there and who want to have peace and quiet at a reasonable hour.”
Miller acknowledged the owners of the track had invested more than $1 million in the property and noted that setting parameters to give them an opportunity to be successful was in the best interest of the county and the track owners.
Commissioner Terry Anderson said he wouldn’t want the track next to his house either just because of the noise it was going to make so he could understand Dr. Smith’s reasoning.
“We’re kind of deciding the Smith’s fate,” he said. “It’s hard to decide what time is reasonable yet. It’s a tough decision.”
Commissioner Misti Drew said she conducted an unofficial poll in her district, which includes the speedway, and her constituents as a whole were supportive of setting the finishing time between 11:30 p.m. and midnight.
County attorney Jeff Edwards said that failure of the track to abide by time restrictions could constitute a Class B misdemeanor criminal charge. A violation would also result in forfeiture of the entertainment permit.
Hopkinsville businessmen Ronnie Jones and Jim Hale purchased the speedway, which has been inactive since 2009, and adjoining property in June for $990,000 and have been working as weather has permitted to get the track ready to reopen.
One race has been tentatively scheduled for March 27-29, but House said that because of the unusually wet winter, the track may not be ready for racing before the middle of April.
Fiscal court held a public hearing Feb. 4 to receive input on the speedway’s request for the entertainment permit and later conducted a work session to discuss the request before taking action on Thursday.