The Polk County Planning Commission voted 4-3 Wednesday to approve a controversial change in the county’s land-use map to allow a private two-mile long asphalt racetrack near the shore of Lake Walkinwater, Polk’s largest lake.
The request by a Melbourne man named Gary Young drew opposition from homeowners around the lake, who were concerned about the facility’s noise level, which they said made it incompatible with their quiet rural lifestyle, and whether gasoline and other chemicals could leak into the ground near wetlands and ultimately reach the popular fishing lake.
In addition, the site is near a number of state and local conservation areas, including Lake Wales Ridge State Forest, The Nature Conservancy’s Tiger Creek Preserve and Polk County’s SUMICA tract.
Young told commissioners he would limit operations to daylight, which would eliminate the need for a network of lights around the track. He said the track will be used only by himself and some friends and will not be open to the public.
If the property’s use ever intensifies beyond what was presented in the application, the project would be subject to a second public hearing.
Unless residents decide to appeal Wednesday’s vote to the County Commission, the racetrack can proceed as long as it also complies with county and water management district regulations concerning traffic, stormwater management and related issues.