By Jesse Wood
During public comment portion of Thursday evening’s Boone Town Council meeting, opponents and supporters of the Mountain View Speedway once again expressed their opinions before the board.
Noticing the faces from previous meetings, Town Manager John Ward led off the meeting by saying that the issue concerning the Mountain View Speedway, which is located at the High Country Fairgrounds on Roby Greene Road, wasn’t on the agenda -nor did he foresee the council taking any action on the issue.
Nevertheless, several individuals on both sides spoke. The majority of people attending the meeting were those supporting the Mountain View Speedway, which opened this past year after not operating for about 17 years.
Earlier this year, Locust Hill resident Annette Reeves began complaining about noise at the race tack to both the Watauga County Board of Commissioners and the Boone Town Council. While the property is currently grandfathered in for racing in the Town of Boone’s ETJ, the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office handles the noise complaints in the ETJ.
In July, Reeves requested to be on the Boone Town Council’s meeting agenda to formally request a “total shutdown” of the Mountain View Speedway because it “clashes with the residential/agricultural nature of the area and negatively impacts our quality of life,” according to her petition submitted to the Boone Town Council.
At last month’s meeting, Reeves ended up postponing her request but not before a number of folks on both sides of the issue spoke before the council. Races are held on Saturday, and the answers to how long the race activity goes on and how loud the race cars are depend on who you ask.
“It’s not as bad as everyone is saying,” said driver Kevin Roberts, who recorded the races down by the track while, he added, his son was sleeping soundly.
Residents say that the sound is much louder at their homes than it is when you are at the High Country Fairgrounds.
“The noise rises up out of the valley like an amphitheater,” Stephen Taylor, a homeowner in the Hidden Hills subdivision and board president of its POA, said in July. “It’s truly the loudest thing heard coming from the fairgrounds.”
While homeowners nearby say that races are going on for pretty much the whole day on Saturday and sometimes practice runs during the week, track promoter Mike Budka and supporters disagreed and said that cars are running for less than four to five hours a week. But all seem to agree that the noise ends before 11 p.m., which is when the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office noise ordinance kicks in.
On Thursday, racetrack supporters noted that they attended because of comments that were made at a Watauga County Board of Commissioner meeting on Tuesday. Apparently there was some miscommunication between the two factions.
Both sides reiterated previous statements on Thursday. The supporters of the race track say that this is a family-friendly event that keeps people off the streets, so to speak, and provides tax revenue to region. Meanwhile, those who oppose the racetrack deem it to be too loud and say that it interferes with their quality of life.
After public comment ended, Stephen Taylor, a member of the Hidden Hills property owner’s association, and racetrack promoter Mike Budka were speaking cordially to each other.
At least sometime before the Tuesday council meeting, Taylor and Budka were working on a compromise together that apparently others didn’t know about. Taylor said he was speaking to Budka on his behalf and not on behalf of other residents. The race fans apparently didn’t know that other residents against the racetrack were not part of these negotiations.
Budka said that the racers had agreed to put mufflers on their cars and add “turndowns,” which points the exhaust towards the ground.
So when community members spoke out against the racetrack on Tuesday to the commissioners, the racetrack supporters took that as a breach in negotiations and showed up at the town council meeting.
“Now they are going behind our back because that’s not good enough,” Budka said.
Budka said that it may take awhile to figure out the right equipment to make these changes and that the racers are using practice sessions during the week in order to equip the race cars properly with mufflers and turndowns.
Reeves, who spoke on Tuesday night, made no mention of any compromise. She said she is still seeking the shutdown of the racetrack and the closing of a “loop hole” in the town’s ordinances that has allowed it to stay open.
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