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Two suits are pending against track

February 05, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - An appeal challenging the controversial expansion of Summit Point (W.Va.) Raceway is one of two court actions pending against the Jefferson County racetrack, according to court records.

In October, three Summit Point-area residents filed suit against Bill Scott, owner of Summit Point Raceway, and other defendants, challenging county approvals to allow the track to expand.

The suit, filed by Carl and Pat Tribble and Giulia Tencalla, asks the court to reverse a Jefferson County Board of Zoning Appeals decision allowing the expansion.

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Owners of the track say they need more room at the track to conduct anti-terrorism training. The Jefferson County Commission approved a zoning change last year that allowed the track to expand by 35 percent.

The track is located in a residential/agricultural area, but the track has had a "grandfather" exception to conduct car racing in the area, according to the suit.

The suit, filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court, challenges both the 35 percent expansion and the grandfather exception.

Decisions from the state Supreme Court of Appeals do not authorize the expansion of "nonconforming" uses, and the 35 percent expansion rule is inconsistent with those decisions, the suit said.

The suit said grandfather exceptions are designed to alleviate hardships on nonconforming properties that are caused by new laws.

Grandfathered properties are given the exception with the idea that the nonconforming use eventually will be abandoned, the suit contends.

Attorney Peter Chakmakian, who is representing Scott, said the 35 percent expansion approved for the track is allowed under county laws. Regarding grandfathered properties, state laws allow expansion of businesses in those areas and county laws encourage their expansion, Chakmakian said.

The county's comprehensive plan mentions Summit Point Raceway as one of several businesses that should be allowed to expand, Chakmakian said.

"To me, it's an empty argument," Chakmakian said.

The plaintiffs also want Scott to be required to seek approval for the track expansion through the development review system, the normal county approval process for construction projects.

Approval of the project through that route would be almost an impossible task because the track is not a permitted use, said Braun Hamstead, a local attorney who is representing two other people in a separate case against the track.

Attorney Mike Scales of Martinsburg, W.Va., is representing the Tribbles and Tencalla.

Hamstead said Tuesday he and Scales have talked about the possibility of combining their cases.

Also named as defendants in the Tribble and Tencalla suit are Scott's wife Barbara, Summit Point Automotive Research Center Inc., Jefferson County Board of Zoning Appeals, Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Commission and the County Commission.

Hamstead represents Valerie Owens and Mike Dunkum, who are appealing the Board of Zoning Appeals decision to allow the expansion.

Owens, who lives near the track, testified in Circuit Court Monday, saying her quality of life has been ruined because of noise from the anti-terrorism training at the track and construction for the expansion.

Some Summit Point residents say the noise from the track has become unbearable, property values have decreased in the Summit Point area and track officials have no concern for the quality of life in Summit Point.

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