NASCAR Track too Much for Tulare?

May 8, 2008 6:55:57 PM PDT
South Valley planners hoping to build a NASCAR-worthy racetrack in Tulare just got back a new report with some environmental concerns.The project is planned for very rural agriculture land in Tulare. But the first draft of an Environmental Impact Report on the project says the damage from a NASCAR track may be too much for this little town.

The plans are big. Several thousand jobs, millions of dollars towards Tulare's economy and a tourist attraction that could set this small Central Valley town apart from others.

Mark Kielty, from the city of Tulare's planning department, says, "It's more than just a racetrack. It's a destination."

The project covers more than 700 acres and includes hotels, retail and a one-mile racetrack that seats 50,000 people. But according to a new report, the $250-million privately-invested project could wreak havoc on the environment. Development consultant Michael Brandman Associates recently released its Draft Environmental Impact Report on the proposal. The city of Tulare paid for the study.

The main concerns are light and glare, the reduction in air quality, noise pollution and traffic congestion. Dave Mitchell from Michael Brandman Associates worked on the report. He says, "On the air quality- the main issue is from the transportation sources. It generates quite a bit of traffic as people visit the commercial area and then the events."

Mitchell says the city would have to adjust its plans to make sure pollution from the project won't violate the California Air Quality Act.

Mitchell says if the project were approved, the racetrack would not compete with local businesses. Dave Mitchell, "It's going to be attracting a lot of dollars from outside the area and expects to benefit all of the commercial development in Tulare."

The project has come under some criticism from the public as to whether Tulare can attract big races. Other raceways in California are having trouble filling their stands and haven't been able to host some of NASCAR's most popular competitions.

Racetrack developer, Bud Long, says he's in talks with NASCAR. Both agree Tulare needs to start small and try to bring bigger races to the valley. Long refused to respond to the environmental concerns listed in the new report.

The public can view the Draft E-I-R online at the city of Tulare's website. People can comment on the project at the next planning commission meeting on May 19th.


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