NASCAR foes turn up heat

Opponents of a NASCAR track in Arlington are steering their anger toward Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon, the force that many are convinced will steamroll the raceway into their community.

On Tuesday, Reardon responded, insisting that the deal is far from done. International Speedway Corp. officials have not yet chosen where in Washington or Oregon they want to build the track.

“We freely admit that this may not work,” he said. “No one’s said we’re going to make this happen no matter what.”

He vowed to answer residents’ questions.

“I want them to question every bit of data we accumulate,” Reardon said. “From the data we’re getting, I do believe we can answer in fact and evidence every question that is being raised.”

On Monday, at an Arlington town hall meeting, residents repeatedly blasted Reardon and “the county” for trying to forge a deal to bring the raceway to a site next to the Arlington airport.

Herm Wild drew cheers and applause from the crowd of 125 when he bellowed that if the push for a track succeeds, “the sacrificial lamb will be the quality of life in this valley.”

But Reardon elaborated on why he is pursuing the raceway so intently, and the dividends the effort will pay regardless of its success.

Like Wild’s, Reardon’s belief is that the future of Arlington and Snohomish County is at stake. If a track is built, he argued, it will provide jobs that can keep residents from commuting, increase recreational opportunities and propel the region toward economic independence.

Such a project, Reardon said, would also help create “a sense of place that does not exist today” in Arlington.

“Clearly, I know my political popularity in that community is pretty low, but I would be failing them if I didn’t look at the options to help improve their community,” he said.

Should no track be built, he said, information collected along the way will bolster efforts to bring other businesses to town and ensure orderly development in the area.

On June 1, Reardon will hold a public meeting on the proposal that the county and the city of Marysville sent to International Speedway Corp. They suggested two possible sites for a track and grandstand that would seat 75,000 people. (Residents may read the proposal online on the county Web site, www1.co.snohomish. wa.us.)

Many of those who attended Monday’s town hall meeting are expected June 1. They’ll raise concerns about noise, air pollution and traffic congestion. They’ll press for more details on how much public money will be pledged to pave roads and extend services to the proposed site.

They’ll ask what happens if the track is built and NASCAR does not hold one of its coveted Nextel Cup races there, The event offers a seductive Super Bowl-sized economic boon in a single weekend.

“Most of us don’t want our grandchildren saddled with this big white elephant that they’re going to pull out of anyway,” Bob Heavey said Monday.

While no supporters spoke out Monday, there are many. Six hundred signed a petition turned in to the county.

Reardon isn’t concerned about the number of people on each side who show up. He’s focused on keeping the process, and his mind, open, he said.

“I don’t think we as legislators can shrink away from thinking about big ideas,” he said. “But if we get to the end and we don’t do it, we’ll still have benefited because we’ve learned so much about ourselves.”

You can reach reporter Jerry Cornfield at 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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