By Wes Helbling
Bastrop Daily Enterprise
Posted Aug 06, 2010 @ 06:00 AM
Bastrop, La. —
Eighteen citizens have filed a petition for damages and permanent injunction against USA Speedway LLC in the Third Judicial District Court.
The USA Speedway is a dirt race track constructed last year in a residential area on the Union Parish side of the Ouachita River, just across the bridge from the Town of Sterlington. Bobby “Jerry” Hobson is the owner of the race track and the registered agent of USA Speedway LLC.
Residents of the neighborhood — many of whom are senior citizens — have said the noise, dust and traffic problems generated by the Speedway have lowered their quality of life and their property values.
Earlier this year, the residents formed a community group called Save Our Environment to seek solutions to the noise and dust.
The lawsuit — filed with the Union Parish Clerk of Court Thursday — states that all of the plaintiffs live or own property within a third-of-a-mile to two miles of the USA Speedway.
New Orleans attorney Clay Garside, who is representing the plaintiffs, said no deadline has been set for citizens to join the suit. Garside said his firm has handled other environmental cases in northeast Louisiana, and there are several published cases involving dirt race tracks.
The petition reads in part:
“Near the end of 2009, Defendant opened a commercial competitive racetrack on approximately eight to ten acres of land within Plaintiffs’ residential community.
“Every week on Friday nights, and approximately once a month on Saturday as well, Defendant hosts events wherein racecars drive around a dirt track on Defendants’ property. The engines of these cars are incredibly loud. The noise begins around 7:00 p.m. and continues until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. in the morning. Throughout the week, racecars sporadically practice on the track.
“Defendant’s racetrack creates a large amount of airborne dust that crosses Defendant’s property line and intrudes upon Plaintiff’s property, decreasing Plaintiff’s quality of life and affecting both property and health.”
The petition cites a study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which shows that noise may be considered an adverse aspect of the community environment at the 60-decibel level. The maximum noise level considered by the EPA is 75 decibels, according to the petition.
“The noise from Defendant’s racetrack regularly exceeds 90 decibels in the yards of the closest plaintiffs … Noise of the level created by Defendant’s racetrack is beyond that which would severely aggravate a person of ordinary sensibilities.
“Before Defendant decided to open a racetrack on its property, the neighborhood in which it is located was a quiet, peaceful community. Plaintiffs chose to live in the community in part because of its peaceful character. The majority of residents in the vicinity of Defendant’s racetrack are elderly.
“The noise from Defendant’s racetrack impairs Plaintiff’s ability to enjoy normal life activities. The dust from Defendant’s racetrack has created or aggravated respiratory problems in Plaintiffs. The noise and dust from Defendant’s activities has reduced Plaintiffs’ property values.
“Defendant’s obnoxious activities are an unreasonable intrusion into the use and enjoyment of Plaintiffs’ homes.”
The petition cites Louisiana Civil Code articles 667-669, which set out principles of responsibility that require a property owner to use his property in such a manner as not to injure another.
“Defendant’s obnoxious activity violates the obligations or vicinage, creating an ongoing nuisance that has seriously injured Plaintiffs’ enjoyment of their property.
“The nature of the harm inflicted upon Plaintiffs is such that monetary damages are an inadequate remedy for the continuing violation of their property rights and personal well-being. A permanent injunction prohibiting the future operation of a racetrack in Plaintiffs’ community is therefore warranted and necessary.”
In May, Hobson was notified by the EPA that a portion of the Speedway had been constructed in a designated wetlands area without a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer, in violation of Section 301 of the Clean Water.
EPA Region 6 spokesman Dave Bary said Tuesday the matter remains under enforcement review at this time.