Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dixon Votes Down Race Track

Dixon Votes Down Race Track
By Ian Thompson

DIXON - It's over, for a year.

A narrow majority of Dixon residents voted down on Tuesday a proposal to allow Magna Entertainment to build a horse racing track on the town's north side.

"It is close enough that we have to go back to the drawing board," Magna Executive Vice Chairman Dennis Mills said after getting news that only about 47 percent of the voters liked having a track.

"They put a lot of money into this," track opponent John Rosenberger said, noting those opposed to the track may have won the latest battle, but not the war. "They will be back."

At the heart of the issue was Canadian-based Magna's plan to build the $250 million Dixon Downs horse racing track and entertainment center on 260 acres on Pedrick Road's west side just south of Interstate 80.

The track's opponents, Dixon Citizens for Quality Growth, put the issue on the ballot after the Dixon City Council gave Magna the green light to build its track.

Opponents criticized the track proposal, saying it would bring unwanted traffic, promote gambling, damage downtown businesses and irrevocably change Dixon for the worse.

Supporters said it would put Dixon on the map, provide jobs for residents and generate new income for businesses, city government and community groups.

The track's opponents described the race as a David and Goliath contest with Don't Let Dixon Down, the track's supporters, spending more than $508,000, most of that money coming from the Pacific Racing Association.

Dixon Citizens for Quality Growth spent $20,193 in its campaign against the track.

"We were this little group and they were this multinational corporation," track opponent Mary Rosenberger said.

Magna unveiled a covenant a month ago that proposed a list of changes to deal with residents' concerns and how Magna was going to run Dixon Downs.

The provisions are closing Dixon Downs during tomato-canning season, banning traffic-creating concerts, formally forbidding slot machines and casino-style gambling, offering race track facilities for local youth sports and giving local businesses first shot at locating in the track's retail development.

Residents voted on four measures - M, N, O and P - which asked voters to affirm or overturn two ordinances and two resolutions approved by the Dixon City Council in October 2006 endorsing the track's construction.

It was the residents' concerns over traffic that kept Magna from victory Tuesday, according to Mills.

"Traffic, traffic, traffic," Mills said. "We were slaughtered by traffic."

Magna will spend the next 12 months going over the Dixon Downs project to see what else can be done to make it more palatable to residents, he added.

"Then we will decide whether we will want to bring it back to the community," Mills said.

Rosenberger pointed out that statement contradicts an earlier promise by Magna's leadership that if Dixon residents stated they didn't want the track, Magna would withdraw it.

Ian Thompson can be reached at

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