Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Magna Set to Jockey on Downs

Magna Set to Jockey on Downs
Proponent prepares to propose changes to its masterplan for an ambitious racetrack project in Dixon.
By Melissa Murphy/Staff Writer

Developers of a proposed horse racetrack and entertainment facility in Dixon say they are willing to make some changes before their plan heads to voters in April.
Ontario, Canada-based Magna Entertainment Corporation officials will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. today at the Chamber of Commerce office in the Dixon Train Station, 220 N. Jefferson St., to announce exactly what sort of changes they have in mind, company officials said Monday.

While details were few, Erin Lahane, campaign manager for "Don't Let Dixon Down" a pro-racetrack effort, said the proposed changes will impact things such as noise levels, traffic and will address concerns of local businesses and Campbell Soup, which has filed suit against the development.

They apparently are not, however, changes that would require the entire project to undergo a new review by city officials.

Lahane said Magna will be announcing new self-imposed "burdens" on its 260-acre Dixon Downs site off Pedrick Road, aimed at easing voter concerns.

"The changes will put restrictions on the usage of land," Lahane said, adding that they come as a result of a telephone survey and information gathered by campaign officials going door-to-door, listening to residents' concerns.

"The people had real concerns," Lahane said. "Their interests had to be taken into account. We want people to be comfortable with the project and we wanted to deal with this upfront."

The City Council approved the racetrack in October by a 4-1 vote. Since then, Dixon Ci- tizens for Quality Growth - opponents of the track - collected enough signatures to push a special election, scheduled for April 17.

"None of the new changes will change anything on the ballot," Lahane confirmed.

The "changes," however, seem to be causing more confusion, said Gail Preston, a member of Dixon Citizens for Quality Growth.

"I'm sure they are willing to do a lot of things now, that they weren't willing to do in the beginning," Preston said. "This is very, very late and it will only cause confusion."

The possibility of changes doesn't sit well with Preston and other members of the group.

He questioned why city staff didn't push for these "changes" to the project before now.

Cissie Perkins, also a member of Dixon Citizens for Quality Growth, agreed.

"The whole thing is just mind boggling," she said. "The best thing that can happen is that the racetrack doesn't come."

Melissa Murphy can be reached at dixon@thereporter.com.

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