Where does the proposed Motorsports Park project stand?

Here’s what’s happening at this week’s Oak Ridge Planning Commission Work Session

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (Dec. 10, 2020) – The nature of the proposal for Horizon Center is both atypical and complex. Not surprisingly, this has led to confusion among citizens, interested groups, officials, and the developer of the proposed Motorsports Park.

When a project is brought forward that is not already envisioned or enabled by local zoning, like the proposed Motorsports Park, the City would need to create a zoning category to regulate that type of project before development can occur.

There are three discrete elements in play, and they are generally sequential:

-        Creation of a draft zoning ordinance (text) amendment , which is the discussion set to happen at Thursday’s Planning Commission Work Session (12/10/20). This is designed to accommodate the type of development proposed, but also applicable elsewhere; this is followed by consideration of its adoption.

-        Request for rezoning of property to the new zone; this is followed by consideration of its approval.  

-        Review/consideration of a project site plan; this only happens IF the rezoning is approved.

All of these steps must occur before grading or building permits can be considered.

“Much of the feedback from the community is focused on latter steps in the process,” said Community Development Director Wayne Blasius. “We hope this clarifies for the community at large, where we are now, and what steps are involved throughout the process.”

As mentioned above, the Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment discussion will take place on Thursday, Dec. 10. The amendment is tentatively scheduled for the Planning Commission’s January meeting. After the Planning Commission action takes place, the text amendment must be approved by two (2) readings at City Council.

Approval of the text amendment is a change to the Zoning Ordinance text – not a rezoning of property or an approval of the motorsports park. Adopting a zoning ordinance change does not allow the motorsports park to be constructed, and the development of the motorsports park will still have to have approval in a number of steps prior to any construction.

“Currently, a motorsports park is not an allowed use in our Zoning Ordinance, so adopting an ordinance to allow the use is a step in the process,” said Blasius. “The change does not approve the motorsports park or allow it to begin construction.”

If the zoning ordinance (text) amendment is approved, the developer must apply for the newly adopted Special Recreation District Zoning (a rezoning). This rezoning request is voted on by the Planning Commission on one reading and City Council on two readings.

If rezoning is approved, the developer must submit a fully engineered Site Plan for the motorsports park, which can be done in phases. Per draft Special Recreation District regulations, this Site Plan may also require additional studies.

Then, the Site Plan would be reviewed by City staff and must ultimately be approved by Planning Commission prior to construction. The Site Plan approval allows the developer to apply for grading and building permits.

For more information on the proposed motorsports park, visit OakRidgeTN.gov. For questions or more information on the Zoning Ordinance, contact the Community Development Department at (865) 425-3531 or email commdev@oakridgetn.gov. The Oak Ridge Planning Commission Work Session is set for 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020.