Race track planned for  Columbus Ohio?

Race cars could be roaring inside the old Cooper Stadium by 2013.

Columbus City Council members, citing the potential of hundreds of jobs and promises that the developer made to shield noise from neighbors, voted unanimously yesterday to rezone the 47-acre site for the controversial Cooper Park project.

The development also would include an automotive-research and technology center.

"We cannot pass up a $40 million investment in the area," Councilman A. Troy Miller said.

Project supporters clad in white T-shirts applauded after City Council's vote.

Developer Arshot Investment still needs a special permit from the city's Board of Zoning Adjustment that would allow it to open the half-mile track.

That board could include language in the permit that would regulate noise the track generates.

City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr. told the council that the city could yank the permit if the track violates its terms.

But after three years of debate and controversy, the rezoning clears a major hurdle for Arshot in its bid to bring racing to the former home of the Columbus Clippers.

Arshot must apply for the special permit within 90 days. If it is approved, Arshot could begin construction by next spring, with the track, which would seat 8,500, and an automotive-research and technology center opening by 2013, Arshot spokeswoman Lisa Griffin said.

Arshot says it will spend up to $40 million to build the half-mile track, the research center and ancillary developments such as a hotel and restaurants.

Cooper Park would generate at least 300 full- and part-time jobs for the Franklinton neighborhood and surrounding areas. The developer has talked to both Columbus State Community College and Ohio State University about being part of the research center.

Mayor Michael B. Coleman, who once said he would not support the plan unless Arshot did more to address noise concerns, said through his spokesman last night that he'll sign the legislation.

Coleman is satisfied Arshot did that, and he has seen more community support, including in the Hilltop during the weekend, spokesman Dan Williamson said.

Opponents had lobbied City Council to vote against the zoning, fearing noise will damage property values in Franklinton and German Village, and the quality of life in the area. More at Columbus Dispatch

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