Published September 2004

Opponents wary of
‘event-driven economy’

By John Wolcott
SCBJ Editor

Laughter opened the two-hour meeting. The eight men and women in the living room of Jack and Eyleen Shouman’s Gleneagle home thought it was funny that some people think they are misinformed, emotional NIMBYs — “Not In My Backyard” types — who oppose any economic development near their neighborhood.

True, none of them are enthusiastic about a vision of gridlocked roads and the roar of racecars for hours at a time, even only two to three times a year. But they said there are bigger issues that spurred them to form SCAR — Snohomish County Citizens Against a Racetrack.

“We’re not against economic development in north Snohomish County, which is the area we’re concerned about. Our members live in Granite Falls, Marysville and Stanwood, not just in Gleneagle. We all know development is coming. We’re more concerned about having responsible economic development that will really benefit this area,” said Eyleen Shouman, whose husband, Jack, is on the SCAR steering committee with Ernie Fosse, Jerry Whittington and Bruce Angell.

They say they acutely feel the “underdog” role they’ve taken in starting a grassroots opposition to the potential building of International Speedway Corp.’s first Pacific Northwest track for NASCAR races on 600 acres north of Marysville. And members have responded with letters to editors, speaking out at public meetings and launching a Web site dedicated to distributing news about the financial ups and downs of ISC tracks hosting NASCAR events across the country.

“Critics say we’re afraid of the unknown,” said Fosse. “That’s not true. What we’re really afraid of is the known. This group excels at research and sharing information. There are five big areas we’re concerned about — including noise and traffic — but there is also the airport, the environment and responsible economic growth.”

Angell, who owns the ultralight flying facility at the Arlington Airport and plans to build a new “sport aircraft” aviation park at the field, said he fears the racetrack flight restrictions a half-mile from the airport would interfere with flying operations.

He noted that “the airport is already a $24 million economic engine for the area.”

“At Daytona, as many as 300 aircraft arrive within two hours before a major race,” Angell said, adding that corporate and private jets would overwhelm the airport, “and if that group doesn’t like the local fuel prices, they’ve been known to boycott the airfield and fill up elsewhere.”

Organized into working committees, members research funding packages and success rates for ISC tracks in other states, inform citizens about their views of the proposed Marysville track and organize public awareness demonstrations against the track.

The SCAR Internet site,, notes the group believes “in honest representation and balanced reporting to invite profitable companies large and small to move into our community.”

“We don’t believe in utilizing taxpayer expense and subsidy for profits that will be shipped out of state — and that the input of local people is critical to any development of an area, before government action is taken,” the Web site continues. “... We want responsible economic growth, not an event-driven economy.”

“When you base your civil income on an event-driven economy, your entire focus becomes one of trying to budget the ups and survive the downs,” Fosse said. “Almost nobody, including Daytona, does it successfully.”

The group would prefer seeing the 600 to 750 acres proposed for the racetrack filled with what it’s zoned for — light industrial and residential developments. They believe the area would benefit more from new companies providing year-around employment and from homes that would generate commercial development and support for such nearby businesses as Home Depot and Lowes.

Knowing north Snohomish County is one of the region’s fastest-growing areas, SCAR members say they believe substantial development projects will be seeking that same land for enterprises, enterprises that would generate millions of dollars in consistent sales tax revenues rather than two to three times a year when the racetrack held races.

“Marysville is growing like crazy,” said Linda Staswick, “but there’s nothing to support the people. ... We know growth has to happen, but the racetrack really detracts from the potential of that property.”

While north county may not attract a biotech firm, SCAR members agree that more and more companies like Berlex Laboratories are looking at north county. Berlex is due to build the state’s first biotech drug manufacturing facility in Lynnwood, a $60 million investment that will employ 70 skilled workers when it opens and potentially 180 later.

Expecting that Snohomish County and Marysville political leaders will not be willing to walk away from the racetrack proposal if the north-county site gets the nod from ISC, the group believes their real chance to stop the project lies with the state Legislature next year when ISC and its supporters step up their push for public financing help for the $140 million, 77,000-spectator track.

“Our only hope is in legislators who believe in responsible economic development,” Angell said.

Related: North county is one of Northwest sites eyed by ISC

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