Races draw a crowd: Twin City proponents, opponents share ideas with council

Posted: Friday, January 07, 2011

Following the borough's decision to renew the Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions' lease at Twin City Raceway, racers and nearby residents showed up at Kenai's city council meeting to discuss the track -- and the noise the users create.

More than 30 people attended the Wednesday meeting, with the majority leaving after testimony on the raceway ended. The council took no action, hoping the crowd could work out the noise complaints amongst themselves.

Councilman Ryan Marquis said he was optimistic that those involved with solve the problem without getting government involved.

Members of the Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions said they were working with their neighbors to try to solve the issues.

During public testimony, Barney Phillips, a member of the Racing Lions, said the noise complaints were unheard of until October, when the borough began to review their lease.

"I really got caught flat-footed," he said.

Since then, the organization's board has put together a noise mitigation plan. This summer, the Lions will try to cut down their practice hours by ending at 8 p.m. instead of 10, and not operating on Sundays (except for a few two-day weekend races). Phillips said the plan is a living document that they'll modify as they go.

"As the season starts, we hope to implement this," he said.

Steven Phelps, a raceway neighbor who has been talking to the Lions about noise mitigation, noted that there are other ways for racers to muffle sound on their bikes, such as by using noise reduction exhaust systems. He suggested the Lions look into using those.

"If there was no noise, there would be no problem," he said.

Parents and grandparents spoke up about what racing means to their family. Some commented that having multiple generations involved in racing brought their family together. Others, like Scott Bowen who lives at the track all summer to help oversee it after-hours, said it teaches kids about hard work and discipline.

"We've had kids come out of this track that are national champions," Bowen said.

But not everyone felt like the situation was a positive one.

Kenai resident Dennis Barnard told the council it's now their responsibility to protect area property owners.

"The borough has clearly passed the buck and put the ball in your court," he said.

And Robert Flanders told the council that he believed he had rights as a property owner, while the racers had privileges granted by their land-use.

"I think that our rights should trump their privileges," he said.

Despite any disagreements, the Racing Lions and their neighbors were in agreement on one point: riders along the side of the road are a problem.

Flanders said it was dangerous -- and illegal.

"It's against the law for them to be riding on these roads," he said.

Phillips agreed.

"We're for safe riding," he said, later adding that the nearby illegal traffic is a problem, but the riders aren't from his group.

"Unfortunately, I think we're getting kind of blamed for a lot of that," he said.

Molly Dischner can be reached at molly.dischner@peninsulaclarion.com.

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