The events at Southern Raceway in East Milton will stop at 10:30 p.m. moving forward, under a proposal from Santa Rosa County Commission Chairman Bob Cole.
Cole said he met with the new ownership of the raceway this week and agreed on the parameters of a noise variance request for the venue.
“That’s what I wanted to have in an agreement,” Cole said. “So that everybody understands, there's no confusion because an owner previous to him would run a little into, you know, after (midnight).”
Cole agreed to extend the hours the racetrack is allowed to operate until 10:30 p.m. instead of 9 p.m., with the agreement from the racetrack owner that it would cease noise at 10:30 p.m. The commission must approve the variance at its meeting Thursday.
Last summer, Santa Rosa County tightened its noise ordinance, requiring a noise variance for sounds louder than 60 decibels between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Violators will first receive a warning, and then a $100 fine. Violators face a $150 fine if they violated specific prohibitions. Organizers of special events can receive county permits. Farming activities, emergency vehicles and airplanes also are exempt.
Cole told the News Journal that the penalties in place would not be any different for Southern Raceway as they would be for any other entity.
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According to the request, the variance would start taking place during pre-season in February, a month when three evening weekend events would be permitted. From mid-March to Nov. 1, 32 Saturday events and eight Friday events are permitted. An additional three weekend events would take place in the post-season between November and December.
Terrell Joyce, a resident whose home sits across the street from the track, said the noise does not bother him because he had his home fitted to deal with loud sounds. He said as of now, some of the larger events will run until 11:30 p.m. or midnight.
“They built it soundproof,” Joyce said. “So basically, if I close my door, I can't hear anything, I just hear a little rumbling. I hear the cars just a little.”
Loud sounds from the racetrack can be heard from several miles away, however, and many of those homes are not specially outfitted to reduce noise from the track.
Joyce did say he had two complaints about the events: kicked-up dust will stick to his home and there is trash typically left by the street.
“Trash probably just on the edge of the road. People throwing bottles,” Joyce said. “Yeah, chip bags and crap like that.”
Santa Rosa Realty of Northwest Florida co-owner Betty Brown said she has helped to sell a house adjacent to the racetrack and added that its presence has not been a major positive or negative selling point.
“It sold like ‘bam’, no problems at all. And the racetrack was definitely not a concern. It didn't hurt the value of the property whatsoever,” Brown said. “You know, to each his own. It's kind of a preference thing.”
Joyce said he recognized many older people, as well as people with homes that are not fitted like his, live near the track, adding that he understands why people nearby would take issue with the noise.
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Another nearby resident Annie Kuhl has been living in her East Milton home for 40 years. She said at this point, she has just gotten used to the noise.
“It doesn’t matter to me because I'm usually in bed by 9 o’clock,” Kuhl said.
At a Monday Santa Rosa County Commission committee meeting, District 5 Commissioner Colten Wright said it was up to new residents in that area to learn what was there, pointing out the racetrack’s longevity in the community.
“I just believe that if we have someone that moves to Santa Rosa County from somewhere else and moves into America farms or somewhere near your racetrack, and then wants to complain about the noise, they might should have done a little due diligence on where they're moving,” Wright said.
This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: Milton racetrack can operate until 10:30 p.m. under new noise variance