Development Commissioners Vote For Southside Racetrack Rezoning

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The Columbus Development Commission voted last night to recommend rezoning the land where the vacant Cooper Stadium sits for a racetrack. But the decision did not come without much debate.

Racetrack developer Arshot Investment Corporation and its supporters rounded turn four last night. Columbus Development Commissioners voted unanimously to recommend rezoning 47-acres on Mound Street for a raceway and automotive and technology center.

At the nearly two-and-a-hour long meeting, commissioners heard arguments for and against the half-mile oval racetrack.

Those who spoke against the potential development began to walk out as it became clear commissioners were voting to recommend the rezoning. Those who left likely did not hear Commissioner Maria Mantra Conroy say, “I am a reluctant vote of yes.”

Commissioner Marty Anderson also had reservations.

“Frankly I’m glad this commission really just recommends to city council and that we’re not the decision-making body,” Anderson said.

Racetrack opponents have numerous concerns such as noise pollution, wildlife safety and land values.

Regina Costa-Tobin lives about two miles from Cooper Stadium. She fears a track will hurt the area’s real estate market.

“How can anybody possibly think that we’re going to be able to sell downtown living if a loud racetrack is slammed down in our downtown?”

There are two cemeteries adjacent to Cooper Stadium. Cemetery representatives say a racetrack would disrupt their sanctity.

Opponent Heather Starck is with the National Audubon Society. Starck stuck around for the full vote, and was not pleased with it. She worries a raceway will negatively impact rare birds that live nearby.

“I think that people need to understand that birds matter. Birds are, we’ve all heard the canary in the coal mine, they are indicators of overall eco-system health. We are part of the eco-system,” Starck said.

Attorney George McCue represents the developer. McCue promised commissioners any noise would be mitigated by 35 foot sound walls – although at this time only two walls are planned.

“If we don’t meet the noise requirements we have to modify the cars. As you can see just north of our site is one of the busiest freeways in the state. There’s hundreds of thousands of cars a day to go by there. We’re looking at several days a year having 30 to 40 cars going around a track. So the issues of noise and other pollution are really those total red herrings,” McCue said. Stefanie Coe with the Southwest Area Commission once was vehemently opposed to a raceway. Now she helps lead supporters and said a track will be a catalyst for area development.

“Any delays that are done at this point continue to hurt our community, and our lives, not just the birds and the nature, but the lives of the humans who live here. This is what we call home and we’re proud to call this area home,” Coe said. Arshot says the up to $40 million project would create more than 300 part-time and full-time jobs.

Columbus City Council now has the checkered flag. And it will decide which group finishes first.