RINGGOLD, Ga. — The Catoosa County Commission pushed back the curfew for a local speedway Tuesday night.
The commission voted 4-1 to allow Brainerd Optimist Dragstrip to stay open until 11:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. This will put the operation on an even playing field with the county's other racing venue: Boyd's Speedway.
In 1991, a judge issued a court order on the latter venue, located on Scruggs Road in Ringgold. The order created a couple of rules, including how loud the speedway can be and how late it may run: 11:30 p.m. After the court order, the commission passed an ordinance to regulate all other speedways.
Thus far, that has only affected Brainerd Optimist Dragstrip, located at 745 Scruggs Road. The ordinance does not regulate sound but sets a curfew at 11 p.m.
Steven Farrow, a co-owner of the drag strip, said the extra 30 minutes would help his operation finish some important races. On some Saturdays, storms cause them to delay the race. And as a result, they have to end it a couple of laps short. This is a big deal, Farrow said, because they are supposed to divide up the winnings based on the finish.
Some racers come from out of state. And they go home upset that they couldn't finish their runs. And they don't come back.
"It's really important that we finish this race," Farrow said. "There's been times if we had 10, 15 minutes, we could have been done."
Commission Chairman Steven Henry said the county needs to do a better job of creating across-the-board policies. All motor speedways should be treated the same, he said.
Commissioner Jim Cutler was the only one to vote against the ordinance.
"A large portion of that sits in my district," he said, "and a large portion of those people do not like the noise. I personally like the motor speedway and Brainerd, but I have to vote the conscience of the people."
James Davis, the county's zoning administrator, said the court order allows him to monitor the noise at Boyd's Speedway. County workers stand about 100 feet away, and they monitor decibel levels to see if the cars are too loud. They rarely find a problem, Davis said.
However, the county ordinance itself does not regulate sound.
County Attorney Clifton "Skip" Patty said that in 1991, District Attorney Ralph Van Pelt Jr. successfully petitioned for a court order against Boyd's Speedway after a riot broke out. He said racers and fans got drunk and began to fight. And the police showed up, and the audience fought them, too.
The county didn't pass an ordinance on this until about 10 years later.
The county commission passed a re-zoning request for a 1-acre plot on the southeast corner of Cloud Springs Road and Mack Smith Road.
Charlie Whitmire, the developer on the project, said he hopes to begin construction next year. He doesn't have firm plans yet, though he expects the land could support 40-60 condos.
"It's a great piece of property," he said after the meeting.
Contact Staff Writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.