LETTER: Elma drag racing from neighbor’s perspective

Letter to the Editor, Sept. 22

I take exception with the September 15 article titled “Drag racing in Elma gets red light from county.”

My home borders the Elma Airport, and has for 34 years. I understood it was an airport when I built there, and have never had objections. Last year when drag racing took place, the noise was unreasonable and disruptive for local homeowners. Racing every weekend left us with no peaceful time on the weekends as well. It took one phone call to discover in order to race on zone General Development 5 land, a conditional use permit was required. The conditional use process is not obscure, and is very easy to understand in the county code for all to see. To try to make it say something it doesn’t is difficult.

If anyone were treated extemporaneously in this drag race saga, it most certainly was the residents that live around the airport. We had no notice and no voice regarding the noise invading our homes. Until, thankfully, the conditional use hearing process gave us a voice. The drag racers took advantage of the county’s generosity letting them “try” an event or two, and kept racing until they were asked to stop. As homeowners, we felt helpless, trapped in our own homes on the weekends. We petitioned the county officials patiently, asking them if they would see this through to its due process, and they did. We only wanted our voices to be heard.

I realize it’s not popular to oppose something like racing, but the sanctity of our homes and families take first priority for us. I feel sorry for the residual emotions left by the races having taken place before due process occurred. If anything, I am disappointed the county didn’t stop the racing in its tracks, in the beginning, and make the hearing take place first. This is an example why we have zoning laws, and their importance to personal freedoms. They protect the uses of the surrounding lands… and ensure nuisance, and of threat to life does not occur. I think it goes without saying, everyone understands why we need them.

If anyone wonders why the residents feel so strongly, drive by the Grays Harbor Raceway on a race night, and park next to any adjacent home and imagine the same level of noise, or louder inside your own home all day, Saturdays and Sundays, with no means of escape. I think even the most hardened race enthusiast skips a race now and then or goes home because the noise and exhaust causes a headache. The residents couldn’t.

My contention has never been with organized drag racing, or any of the people involved in it anywhere. My beef was with drag racing on the airport runway, which is right outside my home. For many reasons the Elma Airport is not a good drag race venue.

Grays Harbor zoning ordinances are very clear, all we asked was it be adhered as it’s written. My hope is that someday, the racers will take notice that the same laws that protected the peace and quiet of our homes in the Chehalis Valley may protect them from an industrial complex, or other imposition on their homes too. The laws benefit all of us.

Nobody is “screwing over” anybody, legally or otherwise. The racers put the cart before the horse by racing before the due process, and took full advantage of the county health official’s words in an email regarding the Health Department’s requirements, and continued racing until the hearing process finally had to be followed.

Denny Martin