Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fishersville's motocross rejected by Expoland board

Something seems odd about the controversial Augusta County motocross situation. After brothers Doug and Terry Argenbright went to the expense, time, and frustration of working with the Augusta County government, hosting a public motocross exhibition, and finally receiving a special use permit from the Board of Zoning Appeals ... a process that has been months in the making ... the Expoland board of directors rejected their request.

I don't have a horse in this race but something does not seem quite right to me. Why didn't Expoland vote it down in the beginning instead of stringing along two local businessmen, making them jump through governmental hoops ... and then nixing the entire project?

If the board had an issue with this endeavour, common sense would seem to say they should have contacted the Argenbrights and told them it would not be approved. The issue had been tabled three months ago by the Board of Zoning Appeals ... in that time one would think the Expoland board could have stepped in and stopped it.

Expoland is a non-profit tax-exempt organization that has reportedly had financial difficulties for years, allegedly struggling to make ends meet. It seems odd to turn away an obvious money-making business.

Being curious, I made a few phone calls this morning and have gotten some background on this situation.

I called Expoland and talked with Judy Armstrong, the manager, who said the board had no comment on the situation. When I asked for the names of those on the board, she said she would not give out that information and would have someone call me.

I later received a call from Jerry Pence, a member of the board, who said they would have no comment beyond the press release that was issued Tuesday.

Bob Stuart at the Waynesboro News Virginian said they were not notified by Expoland but, rather, contacted by the Argenbrights about the decision. The NV contacted Expo which then faxed a copy of the press release to them.

My understanding is the Augusta Board of Supervisors would not get involved in this situation.

What I have heard is ...

-- The Argenbrights built a temporary track (at their expense) and hired an engineer to prevent disturbing the land so they could host the exhibition that was held February 23. They were required to lease the land from Expoland for the temporary track. Board members from the Zoning Appeals Board and Expo Board were all there and seemed enthusiastic.
-- The Argenbrights were instructed three weeks ago to get a lease ready for discussion with the Expo Board.
-- The Argenbrights were called to a meeting at Expoland Tuesday morning. Their expectation was that the discussion was going to be about the lease and hammering out the details. They were handed a press release saying their request had been denied and no further explanation was offered.

During my phone conversations, the name that kept coming up was Bob Thompson who works at Planters Bank in Stuarts Draft. He appears to be a big player in this ... and what I have heard about that is:

-- Bob Thompson built the Goose Creek townhomes across I-64 from Expoland, the home owners who have been the most vocal in opposition to the motocross track. They live beside a busy interstate, they have black soot from the interstate filtering into their area but they expressed concern about the noise and dust from the motocross track on the opposite side of I-64.
-- Bob Thompson was successful in having the Board of Supervisors rezone the Goose Creek property from business to multi-dwelling.
-- The Goose Creek townhomes, besides sitting beside a busy interstate, are in the midst of medical and office buildings, service stations, a hotel, a hospital, a nearby lumber yard, churches, and many other industrial-type businesses.
-- Mr. Thompson still owns over 100 acres in the Expo area and reportedly wants to develop more housing.
-- It is rumored Mr. Thompson wants to buy Expoland.
-- It is rumored the Chairman of the Board of Zoning Appeals is Mr. Thompson's friend. The Zoning Appeals special use permit was passed 3-2 with the chairman voting against, from my understanding.

Though Expoland would not tell me who was on their Board of Directors, I have been able to find out three names: Jerry Pence, Mabel Cash with Hampton Inns (which would benefit from a motocross track locating nearby), and the manager of Community Bank in Stuarts Draft.

What happened? Who else is on that board? What underlying currents are at play in this political hot potato issue? Expo expressed concerns about conflicts of the motocross track with other events. That reason was there three months ago when the issue was tabled by the Zoning Appeals Board; why wait until now to bring it up? Could Expo have been hoping the Appeals Board would vote it down so they would not have to take a public stand?

There are many questions to be answered.

Read Bob Stuart's article in the Waynesboro News-Virginian.

Augusta Agricultural & Industrial Exposition, Inc
P.O.Box 83
Fishersville, Va 22939
540/337-2552 Fax 540/337-2557
A Nonprofit Tax Exempt Corporation


Anonymous said...

If these people wanted a guarantee, they should have had it in writing, preferably in a contract.

Anonymous said...

I am a nearly 30 year old young woman who is married & a business owner in Augusta County. I do not have kids but my husband and I both own our own ATV's and enjoy riding them. And, I feel like this track would have been a great place to hang out, enjoy time with friends and be outdoors. I only wish that I would have thought of the idea first.

Now, looking at the front page article from the News Virginian, Wednesday, March 12th..."City Teenagers sniffing inhalants; officials at loss on prevention". Do they just not see the connection? Kids are BORED; they need something to do outside of school & home. A place to go where they're not thinking about drugs or alcohol. And, this could have been the place to do just that.

And, to those homeowners who live around Expo and are complaining - What are thinking? You should have known what you were buying near when you purchased...look at the industry already there and the zoning. If the dust bothers you that much - hire a maid or keep your windows closed.

I just hope the park gets a 2nd chance & I get to purchase a dirt bike!