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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2007
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Order allows derby at fair

By Evan Belanger
evanb@decaturdaily.com · 340-2442

A court order will ensure a demolition derby goes on as scheduled at this year’s Morgan County Fair.

According to court documents, Tennessee Valley Exposition Inc. — more commonly known as the Morgan County Fair Board — succeeded Monday in obtaining a temporary restraining order against the Decatur Building Department.

Signed by Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson, the court order forbids city officials from interfering with the demolition derby, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the fairgrounds. The derby is expected to last about two hours.

When asked about the restraining order Tuesday, Building Department Director Jimmy Brothers and city attorney Herman Marks Jr. both said they will abide by the judge’s order.

“I guess we’ll just practice until it’s time to play,” Brothers said.

That reverses statements they made last week that fair officials did not have permission to hold the derby and would be in violation of city ordinance if they preceded with it.

Fair board attorney Catherine Halbrooks of Hartselle said Tuesday she did not want to file for a restraining order but was forced to by city officials.

“(The fair board) spent thousands of dollars to plan and promote this, and it would have been tragic if they didn’t get to have it,” she said.

The court order stems from an ongoing court case between the fair board and the city over an Aug. 28 decision by the Decatur Board of Zoning Adjustment not to allow the derby.

According to statements made during the BOZA hearing, fair officials started work on a track for the derby without obtaining proper city permits.

The BOZA members denied a reactionary request from fair officials to hold the derby based on that and complaints about noise and litter from dozens of residents who live near the fairgrounds.

According to statements made during the meeting, events are held at the fairgrounds year round, leading to unwelcome noise and litter for neighboring residents.

But fair officials maintain they are well within their rights to hold all the events, including the demolition derby, which started at last year’s fair.

They point out the fairground property was purchased in 1962, long before any houses were built nearby. They also say legislative acts that set up the fair board allow the activities.

Fair officials appealed the BOZA decision to circuit court Sept. 10. That case is currently awaiting trial.

The Morgan County Fair is set to kick off Sept. 20 and end Sept. 29 at the fairgrounds off Modaus Road behind Home Depot.

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