By Jesse Wood
Supporters of the Mountain View Speedway at the High Country Fairgrounds on Roby Greene Road attended the Watauga County Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, and a few of them spoke during public comment towards the end of the meeting.
They attended because a campaign to shutdown the track has been launched. Annette Reeves, who lives in Seven Oakes community near the track, recently attended meetings of the Boone Town Council and Watauga County Board of Commissioners and spoke during public comment.
On Thursday, Reeves is on the Boone Town Council agenda. She is seeking a “total shutdown” of 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.
She submitted the petition with 46 signatures.
Annette’s major concern is the noise of the cars that race each Saturday evening. Under Watauga County’s noise ordinance, “unreasonably loud, disturbing noise that is plainly audible” is not allowed between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Watauga County Planning Director Joe Furman said that while the Town of Boone has land-use control in the ETJ, the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office handles police matters, including noise complaints, in the ETJ.
“The only control we have is the noise ordinance,” Furman told the commissioners.
On Monday, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners recently adopted a revised noise ordinance with more modern language – like nixing “phonograph” from the wording of the ordinance.
The action the commissioner took didn’t affect the racetrack. The meeting was held with the Watauga County Planning Board with a representative from Watauga County Sheriff’s Office.
The commissioners talked about – but didn’t act on – reducing the 11 p.m. timeframe to 10 p.m., so people wouldn’t be disturbed by the racetrack so late into the evening. Commissioners also brought up the idea that mufflers on all of these cars might go a long way in decreasing the noise, although some pointed out that some mufflers are designed to be loud.
The commissioners also discussed the “ambiguous” or subjective nature of enforcing the noise ordinance.
“The bottom line is what’s offensive to me may not be offensive to you,” Chair Jimmy Hodges said. “That’s the real question.”
The Watauga County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t use decibel meters because of extra costs and training, according to Capt. Kelly Redmon, who worked with Watauga County Planning Board in drafting revisions of the ordinance. But a decibel system won’t make everyone happy – as the Boone Town Council has learned in the past.
Hodges added, “I don’t think there is any real cut and dry answer to our situation.”
Mike Budka, track promoter at Mountain View Speedway, spoke during public comment.
“There’s always two sides to every story,” Budka said, leading off his speech to the board.
Budka stressed that the speedway provides a family-friendly, alcohol-free facility for racetrack fans to enjoy for four to five hours on Saturday night. He said that the races hardly ever extend past 10 p.m.
He provided the commissioners with a petition of 500 signatures of people who support the speedway.
“In support of the track, we bring a lot of business into Boone. They patron stores and food places, and we do everything we can to comply with your county ordinances,” Budka said. “We’ve got the OK from the mayor as well as the planning board who said the property was zoned for what we’re doing.”
Budka said that he understands the concerns from the neighbors.
“However, if they came out and saw what we do and the expressions on the peoples faces and the good times we have out there, they might think a little differently,” Budka said.
Boone Planning Director Bill Bailey told the Watauga Democrat that under his “initial assessment” that the track appears to be a grandfathered-in use at High Country Fairgrounds. He said his office would continue to investigate the matter to come to the correct decision.
While the Mountain View Speedway was out of operation for 17 years, the High Country Fairgrounds has continued to operate. Under the Town of Boone’s unified development ordinance (UDO), if certain uses shutdown for a considerable amount of time, the town can revoke its grandfathered-in use.