Quiet-List 1997

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New Racetrack for Michigan State Fairgrounds!?!?

Hi Folks,

For those of you unfamiliar with the racetrack proposal in Detroit, please
read this editorial opinion from the Detroit Free Press and guess what the
final outcome will be.  I'll post a followup message in 2 or 3 days 
with the answer.   Hint: the power of a well organized citizen's 
action group should never be underestimated!

RACETRACK: Plan deserves chance; both sides should talk

December 17, 1996

Entrepreneur William Davidson's $45-million proposal to build an auto
racetrack at the Michigan State Fairgrounds has attracted the vehement 
opposition ofDetroit Mayor Dennis Archer, other local officials, and 
residents of cityneighborhoods and suburban communities near the site. 
Certainly theirobjections to the project need to be not only 
addressed, but fully met. But ifthat can occur, the potential 
importance of the investment to the city and thefair argues against 
dismissing it out of hand.

Home owners and local officials complain - justifiably - that they were 
not consulted properly about the speedway plan before it was announced 
last month. They assert that a suburban or outstate community would 
not have been treated similarly. They worry about the project's 
potential impact on traffic and noiseand air pollution in the area, 
and express concerns for their property values.For their part, state 
officials and the project's developers complain that theyhave not been 
given an adequate opportunity to address these concerns. Theynote that 
their plan would not require any public subsidy, unlike the new 
stadium complex in downtown Detroit. They claim that the 30,000-seat 
racetrack,which would be built on an 80-acre site leased from the 
state, would create ayear-round use for the fairgrounds. That, they 
say, would enhance the city's economy, employment base and image, and 
stabilize the State Fair's finances and improve its offerings.

Both positions are valid. Neither side should run roughshod over the other, 
either by imposing on the community near the fairgrounds a project it clearly
does not want, or by preempting a potentially valuable contribution before
all the facts are in. Rather, both sides need to meet - now - to look 
for commonground.

State Fair General Manager John Hertel, who has done a remarkable job of 
turning the fair around, insists the site of the racetrack - surrounded by
sound barriers, a four-story grandstand, the fairgrounds, railroad tracks,
commercial operations, the busy intersection of Eight Mile and Woodward, and
several cemeteries - will allow for proper noise abatement. If tests and 
studies bear out that claim, they should be taken into account.

Mr. Hertel observes that state fairs in Wisconsin and Tennessee, whose
grounds are in comparable urban neighborhoods, operate auto speedways, 
and that the State Fairgrounds itself hosted auto races in previous 
years. He notes that more recently, the Michigan fair has run "monster 
truck" rallies, which are designed to be loud, without complaint.

Racetrack opponents might have a more compelling case if they could define a 
better use for the site. The Archer administration has talked about building 
an industrial park on part of the fairgrounds, but has made little progress
to that end.

The casinos that will be built in Detroit - and, to a far lesser extent, the 
new stadiums as well - are likely to have some negative effects on the city
in general and on their downtown locations. But city leaders and 
residents say they are prepared to accept those drawbacks because of 
the anticipated economicbenefits the projects will bring Detroit. If 
Detroit is to have genuine competition among its entertainment venues, 
the racetrack plan would seem to merit due consideration.

David Staudacher - quiet@igc.org 

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