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Thursday, November 11, 2004 - Page updated at 11:55 A.M.
NASCAR plan stirs divided views at meeting
By Emily Heffter
MARYSVILLE A divided crowd of about 500 people converged last night some in souvenir racing jackets, others wearing anti-NASCAR buttons to discuss, and dispute, a proposed Snohomish County NASCAR racetrack.
A Legislative committee that met at Marysville-Pilchuck High School heard proponents call the track "the chance of a lifetime" to bring tourists and new business into Snohomish County, while opponents said it was a "foolhardy proposal" that would drive down property values, clog roads and harm the environment.
The track itself is at stake. State legislators will have to decide what if any financial package to offer the track developer, International Speedway Corp. (ISC), during their next session. Without state money, local officials say, the Florida-based developer will go elsewhere to build a Northwest speedway.
A Snohomish County racetrack would bring in between $87.3 million and $121.8 million in new spending and tax revenue and would create more than 1,300 new jobs, according to a study earlier this year.
That promise will make it easy to convince the Legislature, said Christa Head, of Lynnwood, a NASCAR fan at last night's meeting of the Legislative Committee on Economic Development and International Relations.
"I think we're going to get the racetrack," she said, adding that the meeting "opened [legislators'] eyes more" to the benefits of a track.
Although some local legislators support the plan, not all were convinced.
"Do I think they're going to jump off the cliff on this? No, because it's too big an investment for the citizens of this state," said state Sen. Joyce Mulliken, R-Ephrata. She said environmental concerns gave her pause.
ISC chose Snohomish County a month ago as its preferred site for a Northwest speedway. The site is 850 acres of mostly fallow farmland between Arlington and Marysville.
Local and state officials are negotiating with the developer, which has offered to pitch in $50 million for the $250 million-to-$300 million track.
Area residents who testified at the meeting said the track would turn their neighborhood streets into shortcuts and ruin their weekends with noise and crowds.
But Deborah Knutson, president of the Snohomish County Economic Development Council, said she'd seen Marysville mentioned three times on national television since the track idea surfaced more publicity than she could afford to buy.
"This is the chance of a lifetime to attract a world-class facility to our state," she said.
Emily Heffter: 425-783-0624
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