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NASCAR track meeting raises questions, hackles

Having weathered criticism about secrecy and bad communication with their constituents regarding the proposed Kitsap NASCAR racetrack, the county commissioners wanted Tuesday night’s meeting on the subject to be a clearing of the air.

Instead, even the meeting itself was questioned.

“This meeting is extremely premature,” said Kitsap Economic Development (KEDC) Council President Lary Coppola. “The amount of conjecture and misinformation presented here tonight would shock me, if I was anywhere else but in Kitsap County. We have no facts. There is no proposal on the table. People are just dealing with misinformation, and to allow that to happen is irresponsible on your part.

“Until we get a proposal,” Coppola said, “we’re just wasting our time.”

But the purpose of the meeting, held in the Klahowya Secondary School in Silverdale, was to listen to the public’s concerns, and the commissioners later said they felt this part was a success.

While many of those who signed up to speak passed when their name was called, the county estimated that between 50 and 75 people testified during the three-hour session.

“I was surprised as to how many people passed,” said KEDC Executive Director David Porter. “I think there is some value in hearing people state their case, even if they repeat what was said before them.”

International Speedway Corp. (ISC) has promised to submit a specific proposal for the racetrack in the next month or so. At that point, everyone will look directly at the bottom line, the amount ISC intends to contribute for racetrack construction and how much of the construction cost will come from public money.

“We don’t know anything now,” has become the local mantra, but this hasn’t prevented opponents from using their imaginations to determine what could happen if the track arrives.

One Port Orchard resident expressed the fear that the construction would force dangerous animals like cougars and bears into residential neighborhoods. Another said racetrack attendees were not always well behaved and would require some extra law enforcement efforts, warning of rape and child molestation.

“I was disappointed to hear that,” Porter said. “I don’t think it added anything to the discussion.”

Even so, he didn’t think the testimony changed anybody’s mind about the project.

While both sides were presented, those opposed to the track held a slight majority.

Reasons for opposing the track include increased traffic, noise, the amount of jobs created measured against the land required, the types of jobs created (low-wage and minimum benefits), the use of leaded gas in races, pollution, strain on the roads and high ticket prices.

Those favoring the track cited the increase in prestige for the area, the ability to create educational programs that will motivate the kids, the use of the track when no races are scheduled and the influx of new business opportunities.

ISC spokesman Stann Tate said the company received information about the event through media reports, as well as input from a consultant who attended the meeting.

“I hope people can keep an open mind about this and wait until we submit our proposal — which will be soon,” he said.

True to form, the county commissioners didn’t comment or respond to any testimony. The testimony was taped and staff took notes about each speaker. Further, the county is keeping lines open for future comment, either by phone (360) 307-4226 or e-mail (nascarinput@co.kitsap.wa.us).

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