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There is some confusion on what is actually being proposed. When this opportunity was intially discussed with me, I was told a large group of Benton/Central Arkansas street racers wanted to set up their electronic timing equipment and run their cars on a Friday night. All of the cars would be street legal, there would be no lease agreement and there would be no requirement for rezoning.
Now, we insert the words "Drag Strip" and Bentonites have become very nervous. Also, according to the Dema-Zette, a rezoning ordinance and lease agreement would be necessary.
It seems odd that the governing body of the City of Benton is the one group that has the least amount of information concerning this opportunity.
As you know; Nathan Mann is the person behind this idea. He had a scheduled meeting with the Benton City Council on Jan. 10th but for some reason it was cancelled. We heard from outside sources that is was cancelled in hopes of the "problem" going away. Nathan was never given the opportunity to present his idea to you or any other council member. So whoever discussed this with you misrepresented themselves as the actual person with the idea. Nothing was ever said about a "local group of Benton/Central Arkansas street racers" wanting to use the strip ocassionaly with their timing equipment. If that was "proposed" to you then that would put the City of Benton at risk for liability if one of those street racers got hurt or killed. Just because the words drag strip are used doesn't mean the cars that would be ran would be full fledged NHRA dragsters. What would be ran are legal, licensed, registered & insured vehicles. A good example would be your Mayor's daughters' car; which she drives to school on a daily basis. The goal we are trying to reach is this: giving people a place to race legally; not on the street. As for the question you asked on another board; "do we know that having this would bring in cars outside of Central Arkansas?" Yes; we do. It is apparent on all the other forums we visit; I will post links so you can check them out yourself; that non-Central Arkansas racers would attend. We have talked to people from Texarkana, Alma, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Russellville, Pine Bluff, Austin...I could go on but it would take up to much room. I think this covers the area outside of Central Arkansas.
The city of Benton will not incur any expenses if this is approved. Nathan; with a few investors; plan on paying for the entire project out of their pockets. This was said in the first meeting Nathan had with the Mayor on Jan. 8th.
As far as the rezoning issue; why is this such an problem? And the lease agreement; if the City of Benton can make money from having a track plus the revenue coming into the local businesses why would the City of Benton have a problem with it? If the "Bentonites" are concerned about noise, rowdiness (sp?) then we invite them out to our rally this Saturday the 26th to see just what kind of "race cars" that would be coming in. We also invite you & all the council members to come out & see for yourselves just how much interest there is, how much revenue could be brought in and how civil racers are as a group.
We do not want a war with the council or the citizens of Benton. We do not want to cause problems either. We just want the opportunity to prove that this could be a good thing for the CIty Benton, it's businesses & the racers.
If any one reading this has questions or concerns; please fell free to email me or call.
Links to other forums on this subject: ( there are six links )
Hey Shelly, thanks for taking some of the confusion off the matter. When it's an exciting issue, word gets around fast, even if it might be the wrong word sometimes! Barring disaster, I've already told my husband that I want to be there on Saturday January 26th from 10am until??
We hope to see you there Shelli. Please come find me when you get there; I'd love to meet you and your family. When word spreads like it has on this issue you can't always be sure that it's 100% fact. I've always thought it was best to go to the source and find out first hand.
I will be keeping an eye on this post for the next few days; just curious as to what people really think about it.
Thank you Cliff. I appreciate that. I try not to get on the defensive about things; I've learned from past issues that anger & attitude never sovle anything. All we can do is hope for a fair opportunity to voice our idea & that the outcome is in the favor of the racers.
Thank you for your reply. As you know, I am a huge race fan and will give the proposal every consideration. I am also a member of the Benton Advertising and Promotion Commission and can see the potential of creating multi-day events to drive guests to our restaurants and hotels.
The January 10th meeting you refer to was a committee meeting that included a few members of the City Council. That meeting was not cancelled (I was in a separate meeting in the room next door). Not sure what happened that night but I wonder if the dragstrip issue was on the agenda for that committee? If not, the members of the committee may not have been prepared to discuss the issue. As I said, I was in a different meeting across the hall.
All members of the City Council meet in regular session with The Mayor the second and fourth Monday of the month. The next meeting will be Monday, January 28 - the deadline to place items on the agenda for that meeting is this Thursday, January 24, I believe (not sure because of the MLK holiday).
If the proposal requires rezoning the property (it seems odd that a rezone is required since the property was once a small municipal airport - planes make noise and pollution too), there are multiple steps required to make that happen:
-Notifying all land owners within 300' - 500' of the affected property
-Notifying the public via local media outlets
-Submitting your request to the Benton Planning and Zoning Commission
-If approved at P&Z, a public hearing (or hearings) will be held
-If approved at P&Z, the rezone must be approved by the City Council by ordinance on 3 readings
The multiple step process is what I was referring to in a previous post and on a separate message board ("a long row to hoe"). Also, according to some of the chatter on other message boards regarding this issue, there will not be enough space for a 1/4 mile dragstrip which diminishes its appeal (according to other racers).
As a member of the Benton City Council, these are the ADVANTAGES as I seen them:
-The property is in the vicinity of Benton's industrial park (industry is noisy)
-The property was once an airport (area residents are familiar with the noise)
-The property has quick and convenient access to Interstate 30
-You can tout an increase in tax revenues
-"It's all about the kids"
-A drag strip would add to Benton's "uniqueness"
-Racers are good people
-It would be a venue for a racer fundraiser project for Benton charities
-Your concession stand will be a source of revenue for the Benton A&P Commission (offset with the decrease in revenue at our restaurants)
-Racing events draw spectators - we want more spectators
Following is a listing of DISADVANTAGES as I see them:
-The property is adjacent to a church
-The property is adjacent to (2) city parks (lots of traffic on the weekends)
-The property is adjacent to a large residential area
-Hopefully, the property will be adjacent to the Benton Events Center (lots of traffic on the weekends)
-The property is adjacentt to the Saline County Fairgrounds (lots of traffic on the weekends)
-10 acres have been pledged for economic development which has created a lot of interest with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. All 28.3 acres are touted for economic development (jobs) by the Saline County Economic Development Corporation: http://www.salinecountyeconomicdevelopment.com/images/28_acres_bent...
-9 acres have been offered to the Benton Parks Commission
-A drag strip was never a part of the master plan for this 28 acre tract (not to say it couldn't be)
-The proposal went to the media before it came to Benton P&Z (could be an advantage too)
-Race track owners make money at the concession stand - your concession stand will take revenue away from our restaurants (diminishes one of your advantages). I'm an experienced race fan
I'm puzzled as to what exactly will take place. I love racing and used to do it at Centerville and then Little Rock. The article in the Courier stated that the church wasn't too happy and it also stated that all cars would have mufflers. Having a muffler would keep out the serious folks. I raced one with a muffler but loved to watch the "big biys" run. Someday I might build one... BTW, that is my son racing in the Red Camaro