Racetrack foes appeal county zoning change

A citizens group took legal action against Kitsap County on Wednesday, claiming that the board of commissioners stifled public input before a recent rezone affecting land earmarked for a proposed NASCAR racetrack.

Kitsap Citizens for Responsible Planning filed two separate actions, hoping to see the zoning decision struck down and reopen the public comment process.

The county’s zoning action, approved at the commissioners’ April 11 meeting, changed the designation of racetracks from a “prohibited” to an “allowed” use for land near the Bremerton Airport.

The move specifically paved the way for construction of a NASCAR racetrack on that land, a project that was announced two months later.

In June, the International Speedway Corporation announced its intention to put a $250 million, 80,000-seat racetrack on a 950-acre site near the Bremerton Airport.

Like other KCRP actions with regard to the proposed racetrack, the complaint is less concerned with the zoning change itself than it is the manner in which the change was effected.

“At the time, they said the action was to correct a clerical error,” said KCRP spokesman Charlie Burrow. “They need to reopen the matter and subject it to full public scrutiny.”

The complaint, filed in Pierce County Superior Court, called the action “the culmination of the county’s secret dealings with ISC.”

At the same time, KCRP filed an appeal with the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board to strike down the commission’s decision.

Shelley Kneip, chief civil deputy in the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office, said the concurrent filing were “unusual,” but feels the county will prevail in both jurisdictions.

“It was a correct decision,” Kneip said. “We need to get all of the data together that supports the action.”

Kneip said she has been involved in defending the county against several KCRP actions in the past, and this one was typical of those cases.

One of the topics that could emerge during open hearings is whether a racetrack represents “appropriate” zoning.

“The initial intent for that area was to house high-quality businesses that supply professional jobs,” Burrow said. “A racetrack doesn’t really do that.”

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