2018-09-12 / Front Page

Mayfield to dragway: Not so fast!

Officials send letter to owner, demand site plan for property
810-452-2640 • jhogan@mihomepaper.com

Sue Jostock, a Farnsworth Road resident, addressed the Mayfield Township Board on Monday regarding the nearby Lapeer International Dragway. 
Photo by Jeff Hogan Sue Jostock, a Farnsworth Road resident, addressed the Mayfield Township Board on Monday regarding the nearby Lapeer International Dragway. Photo by Jeff Hogan MAYFIELD TWP. — Bill Jennings in April purchased the Lapeer International Dragway on Roods Lake Road in Mayfield Township from its founder, Ed Vakula, and has reportedly sunk millions into the facility that has resulted in more racing and activity on the property.

The problem, say officials and neighbors, is that he never submitted a site plan to planning officials for their review and approval before construction and upgrades began earlier this spring and summer.

The added noise and activity, as well as plans by Jennings to build a campground, possibly concessions or a restaurant and a motorsports park with a BMX track on the 60-acre site has annoyed many area residents. While the dragway has been around for 50 years, many have complained that the upgrades have brought in more and louder vehicles and is ruining an otherwise rural setting. More than a dozen residents addressed the Mayfield Township Board Monday evening, most asking how new concrete, asphalt, fencing and barrier walls visible from Roods Lake Road were allowed to be installed without township approval and the ability for citizens to weigh-in with their concerns.

The residents sought answers from officials and demanded something be done. Township attorney Michael Gildner announced that Jennings and his legal counsel have been notified they have 10 days — until Sept. 20 — to submit a site plan to the Construction Code Authority (CCA) for its review.

“Isn’t it a little too late for a site plan when all this work has already been done?” asked Farnsworth Road resident Ron Jostock, who attended the meeting with his wife Sue. “What good is a site plan now?”

The dragstrip property is a nonconforming use, it always has been — but Gildner and the township contend that doesn’t give Jennings the right and authority to make improvements to the property without going through the proper legal channels.

Township zoning ordinance, wrote Gildner, says “no nonconforming use or structure shall be enlarged upon, expanded, or extended, including extension of operation.”

Continued Gildner’s letter dated Sept. 10, “The Township knows that you are investing in the property, but it does not know the nature and extent of those investments. I was present at a Planning Commission meeting where you spoke generally about your future plans for the property while promising to submit a site plan that would describe those plans in detail. To date, the Township has not received that site plan. I cannot wait any longer for the site plan and will expect to see it within 10 days from the date of this letter.”

Gildner added, “I am told that the Township Clerk and the Township Zoning Administrator advised you against doing work at the property that may be considered an unlawful enlargement, expansion or extension of the nonconforming use. You have not followed that direction and have moved forward with work at the property. Understand that you assume the risk that any work done at the property without Township approval may be deemed unlawful… and the Township reserves the right to seek injunctive relief to prevent you from using the property or any structure thereon that are in violation of the Zoning Ordinance. The surest way to avoid any disputes concerning the property is to seek site plan approval.”

Sue Jostock stood and read aloud a statement before the board. She said in the 14 years she and her husband have lived on their property on the west side of the dragway there hadn’t been any major disturbances from the cars running on the-then asphalt track that has since been removed and replaced with a concrete burnout and acceleration track followed by an asphalt finish track visible via aerial YouTube and Facebook posts.

To date Jennings said in an interview with Dragzine.com that he has invested approximately $2.5 million into the property located near King and Vernor roads in central Mayfield Township. Farnsworth Road is west of the dragway. The article stated, “Concrete (diamond-polished) was poured through the eighth-mile and asphalt was paved for the remaining 660 feet and into the shutdown area. New concrete retaining walls were also constructed. New asphalt was also laid in the pit area and the return road was freshly re-done. New fencing and light poles were installed, spectator parking was upgraded with asphalt, and all new electrical service was run throughout the facility. New wooden slats were also laid on the existing bleachers temporarily while awaiting the arrival of new grandstands.”

Sue Jostock said she’s not opposed to the dragway being her neighbor. “I just want it the way it used to be.”

“There was never racing on the track during the week in the years that I’ve lived here,” said Sue, who said she now hears cars in the evening during the week.

She continued, “It’s so loud on our property it has become unbearable and we don’t sit out on our beautiful back porch during the track hours … When we go inside our home, we still hear the cars with the windows closed … The dragway has become a nuisance and interferes with our time to enjoy on our property.”

Then she asked the board a question. She said it took her two months to get permits from the township to install an aboveground swimming pool. “How is it Mr. Jennings has managed to almost rebuild the entire dragway in approximately the same amount of time?”

Two in the audience spoke in favor of the dragway upgrades, including Chad Farley. “I live in the area. I moved here to be closer to the track,” and said people shouldn’t have bought places near a dragway that has been in existence since 1968 if they didn’t want to hear racing noise.

Lonnie Hayes, zoning administrator for the CCA, on Tuesday told The County Press that the CCA doesn’t act on any complaints until they come from the township board. “Who knows if they’ve done anything illegal? I haven’t seen any plans … My involvement would be to sit down with whomever and make sure the township and the property owner are on the same page.”

Continued Hayes, “I’ve been in talks with the township attorney. Until something is submitted to us we’re kind of the go-between.”

Jennings could not be reached by The County Press for comment as of press time Tuesday.

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