Amendment of request to allow extended hours at raceway not legal

Shawano Leader/February 7, 2007
By Tim Ryan

Wescott officials amended a request for extended hours of operation on a limited number of dates at USA International Raceway and then approved it Tuesday.

Then the Plan Commission discovered it couldn’t legally do so.

The raceway had requested that its hours of operation be extended to 11 p.m. on 11 specific dates for go-kart races on the oval track.

General manager Scott Paape said the races, which had started at 5 p.m., have usually been wrapped up by 9 p.m.

However, the racers have been pushing for a starting time of 6 p.m., he said, which would be consistent with the start times at other tracks for what is part of a national series of races.

The 11 p.m. deadline was being requested to give the track a buffer in the event of rain delays. Paape said that barring such delays, the races would be over by 10 p.m.

The Plan Commission narrowly voted down the 11 p.m. request despite the support of some members.

Ron Schumacher said he supported the proposal, which would also move the track’s Thursday night races to Friday nights, because of the event’s draw as a tourist attraction.

"Anything to do with tourism activities where people are having fun, 11 o’clock is not unrealistic," Schumacher said.

Currently, the racetrack’s conditional use permit allows hours of operation between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Those hours would stay in place for all except the 11 nights for which the track was requesting the extension.

After the initial request was defeated, the panel approved a motion by commission member Dale Vannes to allow the races to go to 10 p.m. on the nights requested.

However, town chairman Mike Schuler, who had cast one of only two no votes on the compromise, questioned the Plan Commission’s legal authority to amend the request. Schuler interrupted the meeting with a phone call to the Wisconsin Town’s Association for an opinion after the vote had been taken.

A WTA spokesperson backed up Schuler’s contention that the commission had exceeded its authority by amending the racetrack’s request. Answering Schuler’s query on a speaker phone, she said the racetrack would have to submit a new request to the Plan Commission.

The commission’s vote followed more than an hour of discussion that focused more on the track’s general operations and noise complaints than on the raceway’s specific request.

Two neighbors of the racetrack cited noise complaints as they appealed to the commission to vote against the expanded hours.

But the request was supported by several racers who attended the meeting and urged the commission to consider the positive economic impact the racetrack has had on the area, and the positive outlet provided for youths with little else to do on a Friday night.

Paape said after the meeting that he was happy with the extension to 10 p.m. for the nights requested, even though he will have to return to the commission next month to make a new request and get formal approval.

The request is also on the agenda of the Shawano County Planning, Development and Zoning Committee, which was to take it up at today’s meeting. It was not clear how the complications with the Wescott vote will affect that discussion.

The extended hours would be limited to go-kart races on the oval track and would apply on the following dates of this year: May 11 and 25; June 1, 22 and 29; July 6, 20, and 27; and Aug. 10, 24 and 31.

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