OSCEOLA — Neighbors of the Osceola Dragway are rattled by the thought of an expansion in the works worth up to $4 million.
The buyer and developer of the dragway, Hoosier Motorsports and Business Park, plans to expand the 170-acre site on Ash Road to include a test course and business park. It would start with a $1 million investment that could eventually grow to $4 million.
The dragway currently has a quarter-mile strip through the center of the property and parking and bleachers on the west side. It was founded in 1957 and put up for sale in 2016.
The first phase of improvements would see the track resurfaced, new track barriers added and the score tower either modified or replaced, according to plans prepared by Jones Petrie Rafinski. The expansion would add 1,000 seats to the bleachers, as well as building new office space in a 40,000-square-foot business park building, which could be doubled in size, and self-storage facilities.
A curving, 1.27-mile road course would be built at the southeast corner, which could be used by clubs or law enforcement. A dedicated turn lane would be added at the Ash Road entrance while another entrance would be on C.R. 16.
Plans submitted to the county say the proposed improvements are similar to what has been happening at the raceway since the beginning. To make everything possible, the developer is seeking zoning changes including a variance that would allow an 80-foot setback between a racetrack and residential property, rather than the required 1,000 feet.
The Elkhart County Plan Commission will look at the proposal at 9 a.m. Sept. 12 in the county public services building. The request would then go to the Elkhart County Commissioners on Oct. 21.
‘Concerns about safety’
The raceway is asking supporters to attend the Sept. 12 meeting. A “call to action” posted on the Osceola Dragway Facebook page Wednesday says the improvements would ensure it can continue operating as a dragway while being able to add valuable improvements.
“If you are a driver or fan of drag racing, if you enjoy a safe a controlled race environment in your community, would you like to see improvements made to the friendliest drag way in the world? If you answered yes to any of these questions then we need you,” the message states.
But neighbors of the dragstrip say the plans sound like too much, too close to their homes.
Dave Hancock is a former Baugo Township firefighter who said the property is within 150 yards of his back yard. He said there are about 800 homes surrounding the property on three sides.
“I have concerns about safety and traffic congestion. C.R. 16 and C.R. 1 are not meant for commercial traffic,” he said. “It’s a strain on first responders. It could cause delays in responses for other emergencies.”
He said neighbors are also worried about their property values. He moved there himself two years ago with his family, knowing there was an active dragstrip in the summer months, but said the improvements could hurt their enjoyment of the outdoors.
“It could make it impossible to enjoy being outside,” he said.