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Court ruling gives towns power over race tracks

LIME ROCK — The state Supreme Court has ruled that town planning and zoning commissions may regulate auto racing tracks. 

The decision — involving Lime Rock Park, Salisbury’s Planning and Zoning Commission and the Lime Rock Citizen’s Council — was issued on Friday afternoon, May 22.

The ruling is complex (look for more details in the June 4 edition of The Lakeville Journal).

The primary issue: Does a state law allowing auto racing mean that municipalities cannot regulate auto racing within their borders? The state Supreme Court reversed the lower court and said that towns may in fact regulate auto racing — including enacting a ban on Sunday racing.

Reached by phone on Monday, May 25, both Lime Rock Park owner Skip Barber and Peter Wolf, a charter member of the citizens council, used the phrase, “We’re back where we started,” to describe the ruling. Barber said he was disappointed, and Wolf said he and the Lime Rock Citizen’s Council are pleased.

Since 1959, the track has operated under a court injunction that prohibits Sunday racing. The injunction has been modified several times since 1959. The track was planning to try for another modification but put it on hold until the Supreme Court ruled. Barber said that he and his attorneys have not decided whether or not to pursue that option.

Salisbury Planning and Zoning Chairman Michael Klemens said in a phone interview on May 25 that the commission’s interest was not the same as the Lime Rock Citizen’s Council’s, despite public perception to the contrary.

He said from the commission’s perspective, the question was one of “home rule.”

“Who has the authority to regulate the track? That’s us.”

To read the full decision by the state Supreme Court, click here. And for more detailed coverage, look for the June 4 Lakeville Journal.

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