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Plans roll out for motorsports country club
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Forsyth County News

Imagine cruising a road with no traffic, speed limits or blue lights flashing in the rear view mirror.

Forsyth County resident Jeremy Porter believes that place can become reality in Dawsonville by the end of summer 2009.

It will be called Atlanta Motorsports Park and Porter, the founder of the motorsports country club development, said it will be like a golf country club for automotive enthusiasts.

"Instead of making tee times, our members will be making lap times," said Porter, who unveiled the project Thursday in Alpharetta.

The plan, slated for 500 acres on Duck Thurmond Road, proposes a Le Mans-style driving course nearly three miles long, including two straightaways nearly 2,000 feet in length.

The site, currently owned by Ernie Elliott, was annexed into Dawsonville a little more than a year ago.

Once the course is complete, the project's second phase calls for a 10,000-square-foot clubhouse with locker rooms, high-definition televisions, a patio overlooking the course and a members-only lounge with fingerprint access.

Planned amenities also include a pool, tennis courts, hiking trail and garage and storage areas for driving trailers.

Porter calls the project a God-given vision that "has absolute recession resistance and actually tends to peak in those type of environments ... because people want to have a good time when times are tough."

His love of motorsports began more than 15 years ago with dirt bikes. His passion has evolved over time to include Formula 1 racing and go-karts.

Porter said he had families in mind when he designed the project, which is why the park will be an alcohol-free zone.

"It's bizarre, but it's part of my core passion and philosophy," he said. "I really see the need for a place for families to get together and bond, to have a good family moral atmosphere to get together."

Porter said the project was originally intended for Forsyth County before a combination of factors prompted him to look elsewhere.

The property's topography and Dawson County's rich automotive history sealed the deal.

"The motorsports side of Dawson County is very attractive to us," Porter said. "We want to continue that theme of motorsports and its additional impact as it relates to the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame."

Awaiting approval from the city of Dawsonville and the Development Authority of Dawson County, Porter hopes to break ground as early as February.

The preliminary plans, which call for rezoning from agricultural to commercial use, are expected to go to before the Dawsonville City Council in November.

Steve Holder, Dawsonville's planning director, said he intends to recommend approval with several stipulations, including regulated hours of operation, strict guidelines on the number of people that can be at the facility at one time and no lighting on the track, which would eliminate night driving.

"This is a quality project that will be beneficial to the city of Dawsonville and Dawson County," he said.

The driving course and club will be open exclusively to members. Not designed as a racetrack, the course will not play host to events or draw crowds beyond its membership.

Charlie Auverman, executive director of Dawson's development authority, estimated the project be a $4 million tax boost over the next eight to 10 years.

Based on the success of the first two phases, the third phase would include residential, commercial and resort components, which could bring the total project cost to $50 million.

The biggest challenge in the process, said spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne, has been "communicating correctly to all the different folks who need to know about this."

"It's a driving course, not a racetrack, and we believe that very strongly ... it's a different animal entirely," he said.

Elliott said he supports the plan or he would never have agreed to sell the property.

"If they do what they say they're going to do, this is a worthwhile, noteworthy project," he said.

Similar motorsports parks can be found across the country in New Jersey, Chicago and Texas, among other places, with top names like Mario Andretti as investors.

Porter would not release the names of any of his investors, saying only that his team has worked on successful similar projects in the past.

Michel Hester of the FCN regional staff contributed to this report.