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Horse track opens; concerned neighbors voice complaints

By Sherri Ellington Brutz English appeared at a meeting of the concerned citizens of northeast Lamar County and said he planned to open his track last weekend, charge admission and to have BYOB alcohol on site, according to zoning administrator Dan Gunter who said such action would constitute a violation. Those remarks resulted in multiple complaints communicated to The Herald Gazette and the Lamar County commission. Tonya Horton came to the April 16 commission meeting to ask that the county website provide information at least two weeks before an issue is acted upon. She called it a communication issue regarding Brutz English’s proposed horse racetrack. Horton was told about all the different ways the county disseminates such information. ’If there is any question about zoning, my office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We will answer all your questions,’ said zoning administrator Dan Gunter. ‘We haven’t changed the code yet. We’re required by state law to put it in the newspaper at least 15 days before the meeting.’ On the track itself, Gunter said, ‘If you don’t permit it someplace the court will let you have it anyplace. We’re trying to take action beforehand to define what agritourism and agritainment is so we can have some control over the situation.’ Chairman Alvin Faulkner of the Northeastern Lamar County Citizens Association confirmed the race at what he called Rancho El Centenario did indeed take place. ‘Brutz told us at the community meeting (NLCCA) the event would be held from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.,’ said Faulkner. ‘This was not the case. The last race was at 7:45 p.m. and people were still leaving at 8:30 p.m. I’m sure it was after dark once everyone had left. The PA system and music was loud and could be heard at my house.’ Faulkner estimated more than 200 vehicles and 300 to 400 people. ’It seemed to all be Latinos or Mexicans,’ he said. ‘Races were done about every 30 to 40 minutes. During the relaxed time all would walk back together and drink and socialize. Three or four security guys were seen on the premises with burgundy or red shirts who did not carry firearms.’ He added the Lamar County sheriff’s office had a presence in the community on county roads to work any traffic issues. ’I spoke with Mark Barry with the LCSO,’ said Faulkner. ‘He said attendees were from all over the place. Car tags were seen from Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia counties all over the state. We just want to ensure there is no harm brought to our community and this does not become a place for illegal drugs and gambling to take place.’

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