Tempers flare at hearing on raceway request: Plan commission member walks out after heated exchange.

Leader Reporter/March 8, 2006
By Tim Ryan

A discussion of noise concerns escalated into a shouting match Tuesday morning as the Wescott Plan Commission held a public hearing on Midwest Amusement Park’s request for expanded operations at its USA International Raceway.

Tempers flared in a heated exchange between racetrack manager Scott Paape and town chairman Mike Schuler that ended with Paape, and one of the Plan Commission members, walking out on the meeting.

The committee ultimately voted to table the request until next month’s meeting on April 5.

The blowup occurred after Paape requested an opportunity to respond to concerns raised by Plan Commission member and town supervisor Brian Moesch.

Schuler, acting as Plan Commission chair in chairman Phil Zuhse’s absence, had already ended the public hearing portion of the meeting by that point and refused to allow Paape to respond.

“You’re moving this right along without hearing my opinions,” Paape complained, as he and Schuler launched into an increasingly vocal exchange that had each trying to be heard over the other. “You are pushing this through without letting me speak.”

Schuler threatened to expel Paape from the meeting if he did not stop interrupting the commission’s discussion.

“There is no comment on this section,” Schuler shouted. “Don’t you understand?”

Paape ultimately gave up the argument, telling Schuler, “I’ll see you in court, Mike.” His exit was immediately followed by that of Plan Commission member Dale Vannes.

“I’m not going to listen to this b-------,” Vannes told Schuler. “If you can’t control your temper, you don’t belong in the chair.”

Schuler later apologized to the commission and those in attendance.

“I do apologize if I got loud,” he said. “But when we have our discussion, that’s ours.”

The commission was considering a request from Midwest Amusement Park for a change in its conditional use permit to expand hours of operations at the park’s USA International Raceway to 11 p.m. from its current 9 p.m. closing. The request also included allowing all sizes and all brands of sport bikes on the racetrack and allowing the track to operate seven days a week.

Christopher Strachura, speaking on behalf of his father, who owns 80 acres of property adjacent to Midwest Amusement Park, spoke against Midwest’s request.

“We view this as an issue of noise pollution,” he said. “You can hear their track all the way to the other side of the 80 acres of our land. To have hours to 11 p.m. would effectively drive away the wildlife, not allow us to camp and enjoy our land, and also to enjoy the peace.”

Strachura said that when the races are running it is “nearly unbearable” to be out on the property.

Paape attempted to respond to Strachura’s remarks but was cut off by Schuler.

“Hang on, we’ve got other people who wish to speak,” Schuler said, setting off the first exchange with Paape.

“You’re going to wait until we get through asking anybody else and then we’re going to get back to yours,” Schuler said.

City administrator Jim Stadler addressed the commission, asking a postponement of the public hearing to allow time for city residents living near the racetrack to be notified, so they could have a chance to provide input.

Schuler said the town was not required to notify even its own residents but did so as a courtesy. He said city residents would have another opportunity to speak when the request is heard by the county Planning, Development and Zoning Committee.

City alderperson Sandy Steinke told the commission that her constituents had raised concerns about increased volume of noise and expanded hours of operation.

“They’re very, very concerned that this may get out of hand,” she said.

Wescott building inspector Paul Hahn read three letters from Wescott residents opposed to the request to modify the racetrack’s conditional use permit.

Schuler then asked for commission member comments, at which point Vannes raised a question about what type of motorcycles would be allowed on the track. He said he was concerned that the definition in the request of allowing “all size and type” motorcycles would open the door to custom-made mufflers that would exceed decibel limits.

Paape agreed to provide a description of what would be allowed. He said the racetrack would insist that all bikes fall under decibel limits.

Schuler asked for one more comment from the public, giving Paape an opportunity to speak at that point. But that quickly turned argumentative as Paape brought up the subject of noise from powerboat races proposed to be held on the lake (Shawano Lake) this summer, a topic Schuler said wasn’t relevant to the discussion of motorcycles.

“We’re talking about noise,” Paape said.

Paape also talked about other outdoor activities the track’s neighbors were engaging in, such as rapid firing with .22’s that he said also runs off the wildlife.

At that point, Schuler cut off public comment and turned discussion over to the commission.

Moesch started the discussion, saying he was concerned about the impact of expanded hours on a residential development project in the City of Shawano that is near the racetrack.

“It’s no secret that the noise is getting to be a problem,” Moesch said.

It was at that point, as Paape attempted to respond, that the confrontation between Paape and Schuler took place.

The meeting continued after Paape and Vannes left, with Plan Commission alternate John Schultz filling in for Vannes. Schultz agreed with comments from commission members Ron Schumacher and Harvey Stubenvoll that current hours of operation are adequate.

Nevertheless, the commission voted 5-2 to table the request until next month’s meeting pending further information from the racetrack. Schuler and Moesch cast the two no votes.

Schuler said he believed the commission already had sufficient information to make a decision.

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