published Friday, April 24th, 2009

No brakes on racetrack noise


by Beverly Carroll
Audio clip

Donnie Covey

RINGGOLD, Ga.— Donnie and Beth Covey knew there was a racetrack within earshot of their Pine Bluff Estates home when they moved in eight years ago.

“I thought I could handle Friday nights,” Mrs. Covey said about Boyd’s Speedway, a Scruggs Road landmark for decades. “But since then, they’ve started doing it during the day, on Wednesday nights, Saturdays. In the summer, sometimes it’s three or four nights a week.”

The Coveys said they must turn the TV volume up high to hear it when the cars are running, and conversations on their outside deck are out of the question. The rumbling can be heard clear into Tennessee.

“If you put a drink down on the rail, you can watch it ‘dance,’ down the rail from the noise,” Mr. Covey said about the vibrations.

The Boyd’s Speedway owners have heard the complaints before, and so has Sheriff Phil Summers.

Requests for comment from the Speedway operators were unanswered Thursday.

Mr. Covey and a neighbor, Andy Ingle, who lives across the state line in Tennessee, are among the latest to bring the complaints — to the Speedway, to the sheriff and this week to the Catoosa County Commission.

“This has been an ongoing issue for many years,” Sheriff Summers said Thursday. “The racetrack has changed hands, and I’ve talked to many people about this issue.”

Sheriff Summers said his department has received and checked out numerous complaints about the speedway.

He said the track is regulated by a noise ordinance that is a civil, not criminal, matter.

“Their only option is to go to the County Commission and ask for help,” Sheriff Summers said.

That’s what some of the neighbors did this week.

“We’ve had other complaints,” Commission chairman Keith Greene said.

“What we are going to do is, any time there is racing we will be out there ensuring they are shutting down at the proper time and monitoring to see if they exceed sound limit,” Mr. Greene said.

After complaints in 2002, Sheriff Summers reported that noise levels from what was then Stateline Speedway were below 100 decibels at 100 feet from the site, within the level set by a Catoosa Superior Court decision a few years before.

In 2007, commissioners adopted a nuisance ordinance that addressed the noise problem, in part because of complaints about the racetrack, said veteran Commissioner Bobby Winters.

The ordinance describes noise nuisances, including continuous noise from loud vehicles, and directs that complaints about the nuisances be made to the commission.

The court order, Sheriff Summers said, deals with times and not days, except Sunday. There is no regulation to stop them from holding practice days, but they cannot operate during church times on Sunday mornings and evenings, he said.

“We are limited in what we can do,” the sheriff said. “Even if they run after hours we can’t shut them down. We have to report it to the commission.”

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