Demolition derby ban in Scottville causes hard feelings

March 7, 2012

By ROB ALWAY

mcp editor

 

SCOTTVILLE – Monday’s decision of the Scottville City Commission to no longer allow demolition derbies at Riverside Park has caused some libelous and lively discussion on Facebook by those who are in favor of demolition derbies. But, as the saying goes: there’s two sides to every story.

 

The city commission’s decision was based on recommendations from both the Parks and Recreation Committee and the Planning Commission, decisions that were made months ago. The decisions were made mostly because of complaints from Riverside Park campers and city residents, City Manager Amy Williams said.

 

The parks and recreation committee and planning commission each decided in the fall that derbies would not be allowed while the park was open, allowing event organizer Todd Sorensen to hold a derby in January. Since that time, the parks and recreation committee voted to not allow derbies at all at the park.

 

Sorensen did not attend Monday’s city commission meeting.

 

Williams said in November she informed event organizer Todd Sorensen that he would no longer be able to hold a derby at the park while it was open.

 

I clearly told him at the time that the recommendation by both entities was that choices would be made on a case by case basis when the park is closed,” Williams said. “I flat out told him that I believed the winter derby was going to be the last one.”

 

The derbies were held in the open space of the park that used to be sewer lagoons. That space has long been environmentally converted to green space.

 

Today on Facebook Sorensen had made comments about his displeasure with the city commission’s decision.

 

I am just upset that I wasn’t at the meeting to stand up for myself,” Sorensen said. “My family from Grand Rapids has two year-round lots at the campground and they haven’t heard a bad word about the derby, just good things they say.”

 

However, Williams said she has heard many complaints, including a threat from a Custer Township resident to contact the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to investigate the derbies’ impact on the land.

 

I have two emails that were sent on the record, complaining about the derby. Parks and Recreation board members have had phone calls, the staff at the park has heard many complaints and I have received phone calls at my home, during the derbies, from citizens complaining. I could hear the derbies from my house and I live on the far northwest side of town.”

 

Williams said what has put fuel on the fire were errors in a newspaper report about Monday’s meeting.

 

The newspaper article stated “Mayor Joe Baxter said the derbies weren’t a draw for downtown but rather took people away from events like Harvest Festival.”

 

He didn’t say events took away from the festival,” Williams said. “He was saying he had heard from people who said the derby may take people away from the festival. The reporter didn’t write his whole statement.”

 

Williams said she and Sorensen have discussed holding a Harvest Festival derby in neighboring Amber or Custer townships. “It’s just not a fit at the Riverside Park location.

 

The city just does not have any other site for an event like a demo derby,” Williams said.

 

Sorensen said he was lied to about the $750 fee he was charged for use of the land. The newspaper quoted Williams stating the money may be used for repairs of the land if needed.

 

They haven’t repaired anything,” Sorensen said.

 

The $750 is a land use fee,” Williams said. “The money goes into the general fund but it is also used in case we need to make land repairs at the site following a derby. However, we have not had any need to repair the land because Todd has done a good job with making those repairs, to date we haven’t cleaned up after the derbies. I have told him that I was called down to the park after the last derby and it appeared some people had driven off the roadway. Todd had mentioned to me that he would get back to me and take care of it. I figure he’s just been waiting for spring, because he’s cleaned up after every other event.”

 

I just feel I was lied to and everybody I’ve ever talked to said they love seeing cars and people in town,” Sorensen said. “I brought people from Indiana to Scottville and a local motel called and thanked me because they had 15 two night reservations,” Sorensen said.

 

I admit the derby brings quite a few people through Scottville but the argument is, do they stop and spend money?” Williams asked.

 

 

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