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NASCAR’s McDowell settles suit over go-kart track

Mooresville landowners sued the driver’s company, trying to halt track’s construction.

- jmarusak@charlotteobserver.com
Monday, Jun. 27, 2011

The owners of a more than century-old farm have given up their legal fight against NASCAR driver Michael McDowell’s planned go-kart track off Mazeppa Road, after McDowell’s DryLake Entertainment LLC agreed to pay them $14,000 to settle the case, court records show.

Linda Overcash said she and other landowners who filed the lawsuit against DryLake and the town of Mooresville last year couldn’t afford the $20,000 in lawyer fees to continue the case before the N.C. Court of Appeals. The landowners have already spent $10,000 on the case, “so we couldn’t afford that,” Overcash told the Observer.

Iredell County Superior Court Judge Charles Lamm ruled against the landowners in March, saying the town’s decision to grant DryLake a conditional use permit allowing the track to open wasn’t “arbitrary or capricious” and contained no errors of law.

Lamm also ruled that landowners failed to present evidence that they’ll suffer damages because of the town’s decision.

The Mooresville Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on June 20 to agree to the settlement. The town isn’t paying anything as part of the agreement, town attorney Steve Gambill said.

The landowners’ lawsuit stemmed from a unanimous decision by the Mooresville Board of Commissioners in June 2010 that the track would be in harmony with the area, which is zoned for industrial uses and has several major industries operating 24 hours a day.

Overcash’s husband, Dennis, is a sixth-generation farmer who still farms the land on which his grandfather was born. She told the Board of Commissioners last year that she worries about how noise from the karts will affect a nearby beef cow breeding area on their farm.

“It’s still a concern,” she said last week.

Commissioners also voted 6-0 last year that the track wouldn’t endanger public health or safety, would comply with all local, state and federal laws and wouldn’t hurt nearby property values.

Landowners claimed in their lawsuit that the Board of Commissioners made its conclusions with no evidence having been presented during the public hearing regarding traffic safety impacts and other dangers to public health.

No appraisal was presented that would have led commissioners to conclude that property values wouldn’t be hurt, according to the suit.

McDowell, who drives for Huntersville-based Joe Gibbs Racing, is partnering with ARCA driver Justin Marks on their 31.68-acre Mooresville Motorplex project in the town’s Mazeppa Road Park. Efforts by the Observer to reach McDowell and Marks for comment were unsuccessful.

Their DryLake Entertainment company paid the town $821,431 for the property, which is at the far end of the park. McDowell and Marks agreed to certain conditions before the board’s 2010 vote, including that they will limit use of the track to between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays, and 12:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Sundays.

The drivers also agreed to have track lighting face downward and to seek the town manager’s OK whenever they host a major karting event that would exceed the hour limits.

The drivers have said their paved track will adhere to international karting standards and will be the only one of its kind between Kershaw, S.C., and Danville, Va.

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