FERNDALE, MI – The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments has released a study that details how a proposed racetrack and amphitheater along Eight Mile Road and Woodward in Ferndale will adversely affect neighbors.
The project is in the heart of the Michigan State Fairgrounds, which is bordered by both Ferndale to the north and Detroit on the south. The residents who live around the fairgrounds live in poverty.
Both cities have sued in Wayne County Circuit Court to block the development. The local developer, Joe Nederlander, sued them back claiming he wasnÕt given a hearing to rezone the property. The case continues in court.
Both the Detroit City Council and Ferndale Council requested a Regional Impact Review from SEMCOG. The group made it clear that the studyÕs findings were not written to claim the project is bad or good.
“For many years, the State Fair was a drain on Michigan taxpayers, requiring support from the state governmentÕs general fund,” said Jim Rogers, a SEMCOG manager. “An expanded operation would generate revenues to the state. On the other hand, expanded operations would mean a significant increase in impacts on surrounding areas, including more noise and more traffic.”
The Fairgrounds Park project is a planned renovation of the Michigan State Fairgrounds property by the State Fair Development Group, L.L.C., including purchase of a 40-acre adjacent parcel from the state. The Fairgrounds Park project would be operated by the State Fair Development Group, L.L.C. The Michigan State Fair will be operated by the State of Michigan during the last two weeks of August, with operation of all facilities during non-State Fair time by State Fair Development Group, L.L.C.
The project includes renovating and expanding the Crystal Palace, Convention and Expo Center, equestrian building, multi-purpose livestock barn, and Mansion on the Green banquet facility; building a new theater and multi-theater building, a new outdoor concert facility, and a paved one-mile race track; building three hotels and parking garages, if market conditions warrant.
In all, Fairgrounds Park is a $200 million project, including the $6.1 million purchase of a 40-acre parcel from the State of Michigan. The planned one-mile oval, paved, flat track with a 1.5-mile road course will include a 40,000-seat grandstand, with additional grandstand seating of 30,000 to be built when needed. Infield camping is planned, limited to recreational vehicles (no tents or camper trailers). Up to six race weekends are planned for CART, IRL, ARCA, USAC, or SCCA races. A driving school, using muffler-equipped cars, will operate at the race track and other, non-auto-racing events are planned. Total attendance of 5 million patrons per year is expected. On-site parking for 16,000 vehicles is planned.
Detroit is the host jurisdiction for the project, which is located primarily on state-owned land (the hotels and parking garages would be located on the purchased parcel).
The study evaluated the concerns of Detroit and Ferndale that the project will have on the residents. These are:
¥ Air quality – No regional impacts are anticipated from the overall project, with emissions from increased traffic into and around the proposed development falling within anticipated levels. During auto racing, air pollution emissions in the immediate vicinity could be affected, but there are techniques the developer could consider to minimize those emissions.
¥ Storm water, lighting or odors – Limited or no negative impacts are expected from them. In each case, there are steps the developer could take to guard against such impacts.
¥ Noise levels – There will be increased noise levels from the proposed project, primarily from the planned auto racing and concert venues. Noise is defined as unwanted sound that annoys someone. Annoyance is a measurable technical term. Because people react differently to sound/noise, the study of noise impacts relies on statistical descriptions of human response. Many commonly used annoyance guidelines have been used for several years.
¥ Environmental justice – There are concerns about the proposed development. Many neighborhoods adjacent to the fairgrounds, in both in Detroit and the suburbs, include elderly people, low-income households, and households with racial and ethnic minorities. Impacts of the proposed project will affect a somewhat higher proportion of low income and minority households than the regional average. Those households may be less able to take noise mediation actions. Municipal governments and the Fairgrounds Park operators may need to develop measures for assisting low-income households by adding soundproofing measures to their homes.
¥ Transportation – There are traffic, safety, and parking issues associated with the proposed development. With an estimated 5 million people expected to attend events at the redeveloped Fairgrounds Park project, there will be more traffic on both local and state road systems surrounding the fairgrounds. Arriving vehicles for daylong events will likely be spaced out over longer periods of time. For smaller events, traffic may be more of a concern because arrivals will likely occur over a shorter time period. An event traffic control plan is recommended because vehicle backups can, and do, occur at access points during the State Fair. Vehicles will leave in more concentrated groups, but it is anticipated that the site can release 9,000 vehicles per hour without gridlock delay to existing traffic.
¥ Economic impacts – Tax revenues will increase for state, county, schools, and local governments due to increased development and activity on the site and the changed status of the site from tax exempt state land to leased property containing new permanent facilities. Some tax revenue increases are direct, while others are indirect and certainly less significant.