By Brent Curtis
Herald Staff | February 01,2006
City officials are looking at a new draft of an ordinance that would put the Board of Aldermen behind the wheel of automotive events in Rutland.
Continuing a two-pronged approach for dealing with a proposal to introduce stock car racing at the Rutland fairgrounds, the city's Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing at 6 p.m. today in the aldermen's chamber to consider a zoning amendment that would ban such races in the city.
Meanwhile, the board's Charter and Ordinance Committee is following a different track. It is considering an ordinance to regulate all other types of motor vehicle events, which would be required to seek city approval on an individual basis.
For fans and opponents of the fairgrounds owner's proposal to race stock cars there every Saturday from April to October, the proposed zoning amendment is the overriding issue.
But for the fair, the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce and everyone else with an interest in mechanized activities ranging from snowmobile races to monster truck shows and demolition derbies, the proposed regulating ordinance could present a big hurdle.
After a detailed ordinance with broad powers received critical reviews from members of the fair and the Rutland Regional Chamber of Commerce, city officials went to work on ways to refine the draft.
The revised one-page draft handed out at a meeting Monday at City Hall seemed much more to everyone's liking.
"This version is simplified but flexible," said Alderman David Allaire, committee chairman. "We wanted to make sure the message got out there that the board and the city don't want to put up hindrances to any activities already going on at the fairgrounds."
The new draft would require permit applicants to show their plans to the city's police chief, fire chief, public works commissioner, building inspector and zoning administrator — who would make recommendations to the Board of Aldermen.
The board would consider the application and recommendations and refer to state laws governing racing and safety requirements before deciding whether to approve or deny an application.
In addition, the city would charge an application fee for the one-year permits. Allaire said the board would set that fee at a later date.
That much of the proposed draft all in attendance seemed to like and agree with.
"It's similar to (the city's) special-events permit, which isn't that cumbersome," said Tom Donahue, the Chamber's executive director. "Our main concern is that the process be inexpensive and reasonable, straightforward, have a timely turnaround and be predictable. This seems much more reasonable than what you had before."
Stacy Chapman, a lawyer representing the Rutland County Agricultural Society, which owns the fairgrounds, said, "This is a major step forward toward reaching a balance of what the statute requires."
But Chapman said his reading of state law, which requires the city aldermen and the mayor to sign off on racing permits, didn't allow the board to go beyond any conditions the state Racing Commission might impose.
"Our position is that the city can't go further with more stringent requirements," he said.
"As a local governing board, we can opt to impose whatever conditions we deem necessary," he said. "It's no different than what we do with the bars."
Contact Brent Curtis at firstname.lastname@example.org.