COOK COUNTY -- The Cook County Commissioners voted 3-1 to approve the developer's designs for a race track in Cecil during a Monday meeting at the Courthouse.

Robin Judge, spokeswoman for the Citizens Against the Racetrack, spoke at length about the project, voicing concerns about noise, environmental issues, health issues and declining property values. "The values of existing homes will suffer," Judge said.

She also presented the board with studies about race tracks in other communities and their impact. She said the commissioners hadn't taken the appropriate time to evaluate all the data presented.

"It seems that we the citizens are expected to put the developer's wishes and schedules ahead of the health and welfare of the citizens," Judge said.

She also spoke about the economic impact the race track is expected to bring into the county. Taking her information from a Dougherty County race track, she said that not all of the revenue collected will be taxable, such as the drivers' entry fees. The Dougherty race track, she said, in two separate months, paid the state about $800 in one month and $2,400 in the other. Since the county receives about a small percentage of that, the county only received $8 and just over $24, respectively.

Developer Larry Dean was at the meeting and spoke briefly about previous meetings he had with the commissioners.

Cecil Mayor Michael Yates spoke briefly about the town, saying that lack of foresight on the part of previous city leaders turned it from a thriving city to one that is struggling. He added he felt the track would be good for the community, enabling water and sewer lines to extend to the southern portion of Highway 41.

"Sometimes as elected leaders we must take stands that are unpopular with our constituents," Yates said, adding that there aren't any other people interested in developing that land.

"We're understandably disappointed in the commissioners' vote," Judge said. "But (we're) more disappointed in the confusion that has surrounded the issue with the commissioners themselves. As several of the commissioners stated, they were actually confused on what they had actually voted on with the zoning request."

She added that the Cook County residents opposed to the track still have other avenues they can pursue.

Commissioners Tim Giddens and Marshall Bennett said they felt the issue had been rushed, and they didn't feel they had enough information.

Bennett also said he thought that the developer would present a copy of plans for the public to look at and approve, adding that he didn't want the commission to approve something only to look down the road and wish they had taken more time to consider the issue.

"We don't know what the track will do," Giddens said.

Giddens, who is the representative for Cecil, asked commissioners to consider taking more time to more thoroughly research the issue.

Commission Chairman Mike Dinnerman, Willie Batchelor and Ken Rountree voted for the race track, saying they were looking at providing Cook County with growth opportunities.

Giddens opposed the motion, and Bennett abstained.

To contact reporter Marie Arrington, please call 244-3400, ext. 254.

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