As local and state officials weigh proposals from two concerns vying to establish horse-racing tracks in Prince William, organized opposition continues to mount with the formation of a second grass-roots group.
The Nokesville Preservation Alliance has quickly coalesced to oppose the flat grass track that Middleburg businessman James J. Wilson wants to build on 220 acres near the Fauquier County line.
The group plans a line of attack similar to that of a cross-county group in Dumfries, which started its own effort to defeat Colonial Downs's plan to build a steeplechase track on a 90-acre private landfill off Interstate 95.
Like Citizens for a Better Dumfries, many members of the Nokesville Preservation Alliance oppose the track on moral grounds, fearing that gambling--especially simulcast betting--will overshadow live horse racing. Live racing would take place at the Nokesville track 90 days a year, with betting six days a week, year-round.
But Nokesville, a rural enclave in Prince William's western end that has yet to be touched by the subdivisions and strip malls reaching across the county, has more at stake than its moral values, opponents say.
"You don't have to be a Christian to see that the concern is about our quality of life," said Richard Wallace, the new group's president.
There is limited access to the site planned for Fauquier Drive and Reid Lane, and a racetrack would bring hundreds of cars to an area ill-equipped to handle them, Wallace said. The main road with access to the site, Route 28, would need to be widened to four lanes from two, Wallace said.
"The impact to Nokesville could be devastating. . . . The people in Nokesville are not against growth, but they want quality growth," he said.
The alliance last week secured the support of the 130-member Nokesville Civic Association in its fight against the racetrack. With a united front, organizers hope to petition the Board of County Supervisors, which is scheduled to vote on the track early next year.
Several supervisors already have expressed reservations about a racetrack.
But Wilson said his racetrack would actually preserve Nokesville's scenic rural character from the kind of dense development that has enveloped the county's eastern end.
"The track is the key to keeping the Northern Virginia countryside undeveloped," Wilson said. He said his 1.5-mile track will "follow the terrain of the land," thereby preserving Nokesville's open space.
As for traffic problems, Wilson noted that the 2,000 patrons he estimates would visit the track on live race days amount to a smaller crowd than high school basketball games usually draw.
But to become a reality, the track needs approval not only from the supervisors, but also from the Virginia Racing Commission, which must consider licenses for Wilson and Colonial Downs by Nov. 30, the day a five-year referendum allowing parimutuel wagering expires. Prince William voters approved the measure in 1994.
"The commission is interested in the views of any community where a racetrack is going to be built, because the track becomes part of the community," Racing Commission Secretary Stan Bowker said.