UPDATE: Permit approved for NASCAR-style racetrack in the Ozarks

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 | 11:50 a.m. CDT

FORSYTH — A controversial proposal for a racetrack in southwest Missouri's Ozarks is one lap closer to the finish line after the Taney County Planning Commission approved a permit for the track, but not before imposing several restrictions.

The commission voted 4-2 Monday to approve the permit for the Branson Sports Entertainment Complex despite strong opposition from those who will live near the proposed NASCAR-style track on 800 acres south of Hollister. The 1.25-mile track and an adjacent road course would host a variety of events about 200 days each year, developer Russell Cook said.

KY3-TV reported that the Taney County Commission is seeking a legal opinion about whether it needs to approve the planning commission's vote.

Cook of Hollister has cleared about 70 acres about 2 miles from the Missouri-Arkansas border in Taney County, with plans to bring NASCAR races to the track after its completion in 2013. The track is about 2 miles from the Big Cedar Lodge on Table Rock Lake.

The approved permit has 18 conditions, including requiring Cook to make any transportation upgrades needed to handle the increased traffic and finish all infrastructure improvements before construction begins, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

He also must build four sound measuring stations within a half-mile of the track and could be fined up to $5,000 if the noise level exceeds 68 decibels.

Supporters of the track say it will bring jobs and economic development to the area. Several opponents, including Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, said the project would bring too much noise and traffic to the scenic Ozark region.

Commissioner Susan Martin opposed the track, saying she was skeptical of some of the reports that Cook's group had provided and didn't believe estimates that it would provide more than 2,000 jobs.

"Eighty percent of those jobs are not newly created positions but filled by contractors with staff already in place," Martin said.

But commissioner Ray Edwards said the economic benefits of the track had to be considered.

"There's no way on earth we can eliminate all sound of a racecar track," Edwards said. "I think it would be a mistake for us to walk away from this and not approve it."

"Our whole goal is to try to get people to come to Taney County, so we can survive," added Commissioner Rick Caudill.

Duanne Whitfield, who recently built a home next to the site, opposed the proposal.

"What does that do to our quality of life?" he said. "Does that mean we are going to have to wear double hearing protection to be on my deck to run the grill? My life savings and hard work went into that property. As a residential venue, what's it going to be worth?"

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