Raceway subdivison wins board approval

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A residential subdivision planned where the landmark Raceway Park operates won a favorable recommendation from the Flathead County Planning Board last week.

The project now goes to the county commissioners for final approval, though no date has yet been set for that public hearing and discussion.

Thornton Motorsports LLC proposes to change the zoning on the 40-acre Raceway Park facility from agricultural to residential zoning to accommodate a 57-lot development called Montana Raceway Subdivision. A planned-unit development also is proposed to increase density.

If approved, Raceway Park eventually would be closed and homes would be built where the race track has operated since it was built in 1991 by John and Sharon Slack. Marie Hickey AuClaire, her husband Aaron and her sister Michelle bought the race trace in 2004 and operated it until selling the facility to Thornton Motorsports in 2008. They continued to manage the track through 2012.

While a few race fans have lamented the potential racetrack closure on social media, the planning staff report points out the subdivision “would likely have a positive impact on the neighborhood” because the race track “has been a source of contention in the neighborhood for many years,” due largely to noise.

The Planning Board added a requirement to build a new primary access road to the planned subdivision.

Thornton Motorsports proposed one primary access via McDermott Road, but county Public Works Director Dave Prunty said in his written comments to the Planning Office that even though a portion of McDermott Road was improved in 1996, he’s not sure “if improvements will continue to function at their current level.” McDermott Road was built through a wetland area off U.S. 93.

The developer instead will be required to build a new road directly across from Schrade Road where an approach off U.S. 93 already exists. McDermott Road would be designated as an emergency access.

After the commissioners earlier this year tabled Thornton Motorsports’ zoning request until a new planned-unit development overlay was presented, the developer then revised the application and increased the open space and parkland within the subdivision from 2.3 acres to 7.3 acres, with 4 acres as dedicated park space.

While the proposed zone change would switch the zoning from agricultural to one-acre suburban residential, the planned-unit development overlay would enable density of one dwelling unit per half-acre.

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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