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Feelings mixed on Thornburg raceway
Date published: 10/19/2012
BY BILL FREEHLING
The Old Dominion Speedway's planned relocation to Thornburg has been greeted with enthusiasm from racing fans, but people who own property near the proposed site have mixed feelings.
Steve Britt, principal owner of the Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas, is under contract to purchase 160 acres on the northeast corner of the Thornburg interchange off Interstate 95. The sale is contingent on various government approvals, including a rezoning and special-use permit from Spotsylvania County.
Britt hopes to open the Dominion Raceway there in the spring of 2014. The roughly $10 million facility would include an oval track for stock-car racing, a drag strip and a road course. Britt wants to create a racing-focused entertainment complex that could also be used year-round for festivals, concerts, karting, collector car auctions, drive-in movies and other special events. There will be pad sites for additional businesses wishing to co-locate there.
Some nearby property owners are excited about the facility's potential to create jobs, boost county tax revenue, attract tourists, foster additional commercial development and create more business for hotels, eateries and gas stations already in that area.
But others are concerned that the track's noise and lights would destroy the rural character of a farming community along Mudd Tavern and Stonewall Jackson roads in Spotsylvania and Caroline counties. They also worry that the raceway might drive down property values and lead to traffic jams along I-95, as well as on the two-lane road serving as the raceway's main entrance.
Jerry Sklar and Tommy Toney are as concerned as anyone about the raceway. Since 1983, Sklar has lived on a 630-acre cattle farm in Caroline and Spotsylvania that is right next to where the raceway is proposed. Toney has been taking care of the property for 40 years.
About seven years ago, Sklar put a conservation easement on the property to ensure it could never be developed. A recent visit to the quiet farm revealed an array of wildlife, vast pastures and panoramic views of fall foliage.
"It would be a shame to destroy the pristine nature of what we have here," Sklar said.
Toney worries that the raceway will drive away the wildlife, pollute the nearby Po River and perhaps frighten the cattle. He hopes that if the development is approved, a border fence and significant buffer will be required.