Written by Scott Rogers
USA Speedway will be forbidden to operate its commercial racetrack in a residential neighborhood near Sterlington following a ruling by a Union Parish district court.
The lawsuit was filed by 59 residents in 3rd Judicial District Court in August 2010 seeking damages against USA Speedway’s owners Jerry and Casey Hobson. The plaintiffs also sought a permanent injunction against the operation of the racetrack.
The lawsuit claimed USA Speedway negatively affected the residents’ quality of life and posed a threat to their health.
In his ruling, District Court Judge Wayne Smith said while the court was not unsympathetic to the plight of the defendants, it was “abundantly clear that the plaintiffs are entitled to the permanent injunction prayed for and damages, if damage is proven, at a later time.”
He said the operation of the racetrack is “injurious and offensive to persons residing in the community and interferes with their enjoyment of their respective properties.”
Attorney Clay Garside, who represented the plaintiffs, said the residents were agreeable to the racetrack operating at more reasonable times, but the owners refused, opting for an “all or nothing” decision from the court.
“The residents are overjoyed,” Garside said of the court’s ruling. “This has been a big burden on them and it ruined their weekends for years. It was clearly oppressive.”
The group of residents joined Louisiana Environmental Action Network and received advice from LEAN’s regional director Cheryl Slavant throughout the process. She organized a meeting with residents and the racetrack owners, along with its racers before establishment of USA Speedway just off Louisiana 2 and about a half-mile west of Sterlington.
She told USA Speedway officials that almost every time a racetrack is established in a residential neighborhood, the residents sue, and they win.
“They think no one will complain about the loss of enjoyment of their personal property if they put racetracks in people’s backyards,” Slavant said. “Nothing against racetracks or racers, but it’s common sense. Just put it where it belongs.”
Most of the residents who sued USA Speedway live within one mile of the racetrack, which opened in 2009.
The racetrack operated on Friday nights and sometimes Saturday nights with races beginning at 7 p.m. and sometimes lasting until 2 a.m., according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs alleged the dirt track created a large amount of airborne dust that intruded upon their property and created a noise level they considered a nuisance.
Four plaintiffs testified before the court. They all said they experienced significant agitation, anger, dread of the coming weekend races and significant sleep interruption and sleep disturbance.
The office number listed on USA Speedway’s website is no longer in service. Cellphones for Jerry and Casey Hobson listed on the racetrack’s website are not accurate numbers.
Garside said USA Speedway’s attorneys indicated they would file an appeal with the 2nd Circuit Court within the next 30 days.