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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 29, 2007
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BOZA decides against demolition derby request

By Evan Belanger
evanb@decaturdaily.com 340-2442

Members of the Morgan County Fair Board say they will likely appeal a city board's decision that would prevent them from holding a demolition derby at this year's county fair.

After hours of debate Tuesday, the Board of Zoning Adjustment voted unanimously to deny a request from the fair board to hold a demolition derby during the fair in September.

A similar event was held at last year's fair, but when fair organizers began expanding the derby track this year, they were issued a stop-work order by the city's Building Department.

Building Director Jimmy Brothers said fair officials started work on the track without the proper city permits. He advised BOZA members Tuesday not to approve the request.

While the fair is a countywide event, the fairgrounds, at 1021 Modaus Road S.W., are inside the city limits, making the property subject to city zoning ordinances.

Noise was the chief complaint voiced during Tuesday's meeting by dozens of residents who live near the fairgrounds. Most said they can tolerate the 10-day fair held each fall, but the fairgrounds are frequently rented for other events that generate unwanted noise and litter.

Residents also complained that wording in the board's request form was unclear and could allow organizers to hold derby races at any time. During the meeting, fair board member Robert Long revised the request to include only one night of demolition derby during the fair.

After the meeting, Long and fair board Chairman Sonny Wright said the board will likely move to appeal the decision to circuit court. Wright said they had already contracted $6,000 worth of improvements at the derby track. Since the fairgrounds were purchased jointly by the city and county in 1962, the two also pointed out that the fair was in operation before any residences were built nearby.

Long said legislative acts that set up the fair board could also constitute grounds for reversal of the decision.

Prominent speakers during Tuesday's meeting included Mayor Don Kyle and District 4 County Commissioner Stacy George. George said he supports the fair but sees a need to relocate it. Kyle said it was time for some "neighborly consideration" from the fair board.

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