Second opinion paves way for more hours at USA Raceway

Shawano Leader/February 8, 2007
By Tim Ryan

After a second opinion maintained that a Wescott Plan Commission vote Tuesday was in fact legal, a county committee on Wednesday followed the town’s recommendation and approved a limited change of hours for USA International Raceway.

The Shawano County Planning, Development and Zoning Committee voted 4-1 to allow the racetrack to run its go-kart races on the oval track until 10 p.m. on 11 specific Friday nights. The races previously have been held on Thursdays and had a 9 p.m. cutoff.

The committee’s decision came a day after the Wescott Plan Commission amended to 10 p.m. the racetrack’s original request for extended hours of operation until 11 p.m. on those dates.

Town chairman and commission member Mike Schuler had questioned the Plan Commission’s legal authority to amend the request. Schuler interrupted Tuesday’s commission meeting with a phone call to the Wisconsin Towns Association for an opinion after the vote was taken.

A WTA spokesperson backed up Schuler’s contention that the commission had exceeded its authority by amending the racetrack’s request.

However, Plan Commission chairman Phil Zuhse sought a second opinion from Shawano County corporation counsel Jeff Kuglitsch who said the commission’s action was legitimate.

"I believe it was appropriate for the commission to drop it to 10 o’clock," he told the county planning committee.

Kuglitsch said that at issue was whether there had been sufficient public notice given that the agenda item had been a request to go to 11 p.m. He said it was his opinion that because the amended time was still within the requested time frame, the change wouldn’t have required a new notice and new request.

"If they had gone past 11 p.m., it would have required posting a new notice," he said.

Zuhse told the Shawano Leader Wednesday that he was going to abide by Kuglitsch’s opinion and did not plan to bring the matter back before the Plan Commission.

Racetrack 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 had been pushing for a starting time of 6 p.m., he said.

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 extended hours approved by the committee would apply on May 11 and 25; June 1, 22 and 29; July 6, 20, and 27; and Aug. 10, 24 and 31 of this year.

The county planning committee was not so much troubled by the extended hours, however, as they were by other unresolved issues at the racetrack.

Chairman Robert Krause said he was concerned about the lack of a plan showing adequate parking at the racetrack, something that had been a condition of the racetrack’s original conditional use permit.

"In my opinion, there’s a violation on this conditional use permit," Krause said, adding that he would like to see the extension of hours granted on the condition that the track first come into compliance.

Earlier, during the public hearing portion of the meeting, Paape said parking would be not be an issue for the small crowds at the Friday night go-kart races. He said the track was negotiating with a neighbor over property to expand the parking lot so there would be adequate parking for the larger events.

When the commission discussed the request later in the meeting, Krause said the track had been promising for two years to resolve the parking situation and still had not done it.

"Their original plan wasn’t carried out and a new plan hasn’t been presented," Krause said. "As usual, we’re putting the cart before the horse with this organization."

But some committee members came to the racetrack’s defense.

"I look at this as trying to run their business," said committee member Dennis Hartleben. "We should be happy there’s a business trying to bring commerce to this area."

Harlteben also criticized complaints about racetrack noise as "picky."

"There are people who have a vendetta against these people," Hartleben said.

Member Ken Capelle said the committee was straying from the request at hand.

"We have overkilled this," he said. "Their request was for dates and times. That’s all they asked for. Let’s address what they came here for."

Krause said he was not targeting the racetrack.

"We’re charged with public safety, that’s our job," he said. "I’m not picking on these folks, but they have to follow the same rules everyone else has to follow."

Krause cast the sole no vote against the measure.

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