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Officials press for more details on track plan

March 22, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Saying people are getting frustrated and even worried over the project, several Eastern Panhandle lawmakers and county officials are pressing Sen. Herb Snyder to publicly divulge details of his effort to bring a NASCAR track to the area.

The comments came after Snyder, D-Jefferson, said Wednesday that the effort to find a location for the track is being centered on Berkeley County.

Snyder had earlier said the track could be located in either Berkeley or Jefferson county.

On Wednesday, Snyder said the focus is now on Berkeley County because Jefferson County does not have a road system big enough to handle traffic associated with a car racetrack.

Snyder said the investors with whom he has been working are trying to find between 500 and 1,000 acres of land on the west side of Interstate 81 near the I-81 rest stop at Marlowe.

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The investors want a NASCAR museum that would be associated with the track to be located just over the West Virginia line in Washington County, near the I-81 and I-70 interchange, said Snyder.

"What I want to do is share this with Maryland. This will double the chances of getting it done," said Snyder.

Snyder said he faxed a letter to Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening Thursday to inform him of the effort and invite Glendening to "share the bounty of tourism attractions."

Although Snyder did reveal details about what kind of assistance he wants from Maryland officials, Snyder said he would like to see I-81 expanded from four to six lanes between the I-70/I-81 interchange to the West Virginia line to accommodate traffic for the track.

Glendening's office had not received the letter as of late Thursday afternoon, Glendening spokeswoman Michelle Byrnie said.

Washington County Administrator Rod Shoop said he knew of no discussions to involve Washington County in the project.

As he has done in the past, Snyder declined to say who the track investors are. Snyder said he plans to lay out many of the details of the project before a West Virginia Motorsports Council meeting in Flatwoods, W.Va. on April 17.

Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, said there should be a public hearing in the local area before April 17 to allow Eastern Panhandle residents to learn about the project.

People who are excited about the possibility of a NASCAR track in the area are frustrated because they can't get details and people who are opposed to it are frustrated for the same reason, Unger said.

Both Unger and Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, said their homes and offices have been flooded with phone calls about the proposal.

"The thing that concerns me about this whole process is how secretive it is. I just think that whatever is going on needs to come out. There needs to be public debate," said Unger.

Snyder bristled at Unger's suggestion and said he and Unger do not get along.

Other Eastern Panhandle officials also support some type of public meeting or statement so the local community can learn more about the proposal.

Del. Dale Manuel, D-Jefferson, suggested Snyder have a public meeting with members of the county commissions from the two counties.

Doyle said he believes the project will not develop. If such a massive project was being considered for the area, county officials would have been hearing about it by now.

"This is not how these things develop," Doyle said.

"If there is any truth to this, then the investors need to show their cards," Berkeley County Commission President Howard Strauss said Wednesday.

Strauss said he does not know of a tract of land in Marlowe big enough for the track. The only area that would have between 500 and 1,000 acres available is in Back Creek, a sparsely populated area in the southern part of the county, he said.

Snyder claims people in other parts of the state have become interested in attracting the NASCAR project to their home areas, including Sen. Ed Bowman, a Democrat who represents Hancock County in the Northern Panhandle.

Although Bowman said Thursday he would not turn down an opportunity to attract a NASCAR track to his county if there were a chance of landing it, no one has approached him about this project.

"I have never personally been involved," said Bowman.

The executive director of the West Virginia Motorsports Council, a newly formed state organization designed to explore possible new racing facilities in the state, said he has not heard any more details about Snyder's project.

Eric Denemark said earlier in the month that one reason people may not be learning many details about the track is because he has heard that people involved in it are not involved in car racing.

Denemark said the only new information he has received was a voice mail message Thursday from Snyder informing Denemark that Snyder planned to appear before the Motorsports Council on April 17 to provide more details.

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