Thursday, July 17, 2008

Board Decides Speedway's Fate Tonight

The Montgomery (AL) Board of Adjustment meets tonight, and when it is all over, there’s a decent chance that NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver -- and American Cultural Icon -- Rick Crawford will be told that he didn’t really purchase Montgomery Motor Speedway last month, he purchased a 63-acre parking lot.

Crawford goes before the board tonight to ask that they grant him a license to hold racing events at the Speedway this season, but thanks to a few local homeowners and their attorney, that request may be denied.

Local attorney Doyle Fuller represents the homeowners, and says Montgomery Motor Speedway is now located on a floodplain. How can a track has been in existence since 1953 suddenly find itself in a floodplain? Well, apparently it’s been there all along, causing no problem at all. Despite that, the honorable Mr. Fuller is determined to see that the track never opens again.

In his words, “There are only so many structures you can put in an area like that, and we don't believe a racetrack is one of them."

According to Fuller, the track was operational when the area was first declared a floodplain, and was "grandfathered in" as an existing use facility. But when track owner Bill Manfull shut the speedway down three years ago, Fuller and his clients say he forfeited the track’s grandfathered status. He is demanding that the board treat Montgomery Motor Speedway as a new facility, and deny Crawford a permit to hold races there ever again.

Manfull isn’t going quietly, though. He points out that the law requires only that one race be held each year to maintain the track’s operational status. And he contends that he has met that obligation. He says he personally raced school buses and rental cars around the facility in each of the last three years, while leasing it to Hyundai as a parking lot for newly produced automobiles.

He told the Montgomery Advertiser, “All of that's racing. Nowhere does it say we've got to have a certain number of participants, or fans watching. (It) just says we have to have a race per year. We've done that."

So tonight, the Montgomery Board of Adjustment has a choice to make. They can knuckle under to the legal maneuvering of a small group of people who bought houses next door to a racetrack, without ever considering the possibility of actual racing. Or they can allow Rick Crawford to try and turn a rundown piece of undeveloped property into something the area can once again be proud of.

Good luck, Rick.

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