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Demo derby versus Decatur
Fair officials plan event despite city’s opposition

By Evan Belanger · 340-2442

A demolition derby at the Morgan County Fairgrounds will continue as scheduled Sept. 22, fair officials say.

The announcement came after an Aug. 28 decision by the Decatur Board of Zoning Adjustment to deny Tennessee Valley Exposition Inc. — more commonly known as the fair board — permission to hold the derby.

At the time, Building Department Director Jimmy Brothers said fair officials started work on a track for the derby without obtaining proper city permits. He advised BOZA members not to approve the fair board’s request to hold the derby.

But fair officials have since appealed the decision to Morgan County Circuit Court. While the case is not likely to come up for several months, the fair board’s attorney, Catherine Halbrooks of Hartselle, said the appeal places a temporary hold on the BOZA decision, allowing the event to continue.

“I assured the city that it would only be a one-night event,” she said. “We have been given the OK.”

City attorney Herman Marks Jr. disagrees; however, he won’t say what the city will do if fair officials hold the derby.

Fair board Chairman Sonny Wright said the derby will begin at 6 p.m. Sept. 22. He said would-be contestants can find rules and entry forms on the fair Web site at www.morgancounty-fair .com.

“It very definitely is going to go on,” he said. “As long as we’ve got it under appeal, they can’t enforce that decision.”

But city officials gave a different interpretation of the law. Marks said regardless of the appeal, fair officials still do not have permission to hold the derby. He said the city will deal with the matter when it arises.

Brothers agreed with the assessment.

“I would assume our position at this point is that the demolition derby is not approved as a use at the fairgrounds, so I don’t know what else to say,” he said.

Neither Brothers nor Marks would say exactly how they would react if fair officials continue with their plans.

The fairgrounds, behind The Home Depot off Modaus Road, has been a source of continuing controversy for the fair board, the county and the city.

Neighboring residents complain year-around use of the facility is too noisy and litter is becoming a problem. Dozens showed up to voice complaints at the August BOZA meeting.

Fair officials point out the fair has gone on there since 1962, long before any residences were built nearby.

Wright said the fair board spent $6,000 on improvements to the derby track. A similar event was held at least year’s fair. Wright said it was a popular event.

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