HARTFORD TWP. Panel fails to back speedway

Hartford Township trustees will rule on the issue Oct. 26.
WARREN -- The Trumbull County Planning Commission voted to override a staff recommendation, and opposes a zoning change that would allow the Sharon Speedway to expand its business.
The commission's recommendation will be considered by Hartford Township trustees as they consider the speedway's request to rezone its property from residential to commercial.
It would take a unanimous vote by the three trustees to overturn last month's rejection of the speedway's proposal by the township zoning commission.
The racetrack has been able to operate in an area zoned residential because it was there before zoning was introduced to Hartford, officials say. But rezoning the area commercial would allow the speedway to add a restaurant or souvenir shop, for example, or hold other types of events.
"The people in Hartford, they know the racetrack is there, they just don't want it to get worse than it is," said planning commission chairman Lewis Kostoff, a Hartford resident. "The wishes of the people in Hartford is to leave it alone."
Two residents spoke out against the zone change request at the meeting Tuesday. They complained about noise, traffic and dirt generated by the racetrack, and worried that zoning the area commercial would allow more.
"It would begin a self-perpetuating knot of growth that would rob us of the rural nature of the township," said Hartford resident Jim Davies.
Long-term plan
However, a long-term plan for Hartford Township, prepared by the planning commission and approved by trustees, earmark the speedway's 37 acres on the west side of Custer-Orangeville Road for commercial development.
"We had a comprehensive plan done by the planning commission, and in the plan they said this area should develop commercially," said Hartford Trustee Rebecca Whitman. "Now, they are going to say 'no,' after we spent all that money on the plan?"
She said that the zone change will not change the auto races that irritate some residents, but would prevent the racetrack from holding other events that could benefit the community. The speedway wasn't able to host a circus for the fire department because of current zoning regulations, Whitman said.
The current regulations would also prevent the Hartford Apple Festival from moving there next year, after the school where it is held is demolished, she said.
She said speedway owners are willing to work with the township to address traffic and dust complaints.
"The existing use is commercial," said Atty. Tom Nader, who represents speedway owners. He said speedway owners have invested millions to upgrade grandstands and septic system at the track.
Township trustees will hold a public hearing on the zone change 8 p.m. Oct. 26 in the township building.

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