Every chair in Buckham West’s large meeting room was taken, leaving a few latecomers to mill around the exits as one speaker after another pointed to flaws in a proposed car club planned for 466 acres just off the interstate and a review of environmental impacts the completed development might cause.
Most of the more than two dozen speakers urged the Rice County Planning Commission to require a more thorough environmental assessment of the club known as Wolf Creek Autobahn. Some noted that the mandatory assessment, the subject of Thursday’s public hearing, was incomplete, and said that if built as planned, the noise from the project would undoubtedly exceed state and county limits. Only two speakers supported for the plan.
“I would appear that the Rice County Planning commissioners have two choices,” said Circle Lake resident Sam Sunderlin, “obey the state rule and stop the permitting process for the Wolf Creek Autobahn because their [Environmental Assessment Worksheet] noise study indicated that the project will violate noise pollution regulations when it opens [or] order an Environment Impact Statement.”
Environmental Assessment Worksheets are considered relatively concise while an Environmental Impact Statement is a comprehensive review.
Since the project was first pitched to county commissioners more than two years ago, developer Neal Krzyzaniak has fine-tuned his proposal. He’s said that the club would “be high end all the way” and that it would attract serious car aficionados.
According to county environmental Services Director Julie Runkel, the project would stretch across County Road 1 and include 300 garage villas, a 5.6-mile road course and 1-mile kart course, a 150-site RV park, a 32,000-square foot clubhouse, 4-acre event area, convenience store, an auto sales/service shop and possibly a “high-turnover sit-down restaurant.”
Several speakers noted that the study’s section on noise didn’t take some of the club’s amenities into account.
“Additional site features like the outdoor event space, skid pad and RV park are not included in the model,” it said. “These activities should be incorporated into a noise mitigation plan as part of the conditional use permit.”
That didn’t sit well with several speakers.
Others wondered about why traffic mitigation plans didn’t extend to the I-35 exits at Hwy. 19 and 21 where motorists looking to avoid backups would turn. Still others feared that the development would negatively affect plant and animal life on the site and alter their quality of life, bringing traffic and noise, and taking away the peaceful existence they now enjoy.
The additional pavement would cause flooding, said Elizabeth Hamilton, who lives on nearby Bagley Avenue, noting that hear front yard already fills with water from time to time. And, she said, there’s no deal with the city of Faribault on an extension of sewer lines to the property.
The City Council initially expressed interest in an agreement with the club to take some of its available sewer capacity. But it leaned away from that in May, saying it might consider an agreement with the city of Medford only.