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Hot Rod track, neighbors in noise dispute

By HOLLY HUFFMAN

Eagle Staff Writer

Wayne Brown isn’t denying that his Hot Rod Hill Motor Park produces plenty of noise on Saturday nights when race car drivers from across Texas converge on the Brazos County track.

When the drivers rev up their engines and speed out of their starting positions, it creates quite a racket. There are a lot of cars, their engines roar and, if the wind is blowing right, the sound can carry for miles.

As a result, Brown has been hit with eight disorderly conduct citations, all issued by Brazos County sheriff’s deputies during the past 10 months after residents living near the Marino Road track reported the loud noise to police.

But the longtime race car driver said he is trying to shed his noisy image, just as some of his neighbors, who say they are fed up with sleepless Saturday nights, are working to shut down his business.

Brown’s black clay, quarter-mile oval track is just outside the northeastern Bryan city limit. He said he has been studying laws regulating race tracks to make sure his complies, and he also is implementing noise regulations at the track. All cars must have mufflers, he said, and those that are too loud are asked not to return.

The track owner said he also has been working with Texas A&M University architecture students to design sound buffers. And he has plans for additional billboards and guardrails, which will help deflect the racket, he said.

“ I’m gonna find the answer,” said Brown, who opened Hot Rod Hill in July 2002. “I have invested everything I own here.”

His efforts may come too late.

Brazos County resident Roger Castillo, who lives less than a mile from Hot Rod Hill, said he and as many as 30 other area residents are tired of listening to the engines roar throughout the night on Saturdays — often until 1 or 2 o’clock the following morning.

Castillo said he and his neighbors repeatedly call the authorities, but that generally doesn’t make things any quieter at the park. So his next step, he said, will be seeking an injunction to shut down the race track.

“ If we let him continue to run, it’s just gonna get worse because he has no fear of the law or what they’re gonna do to him,” said Castillo, who lives on nearby Dilly Shaw Tap Road.

Policing the noise

Chief Deputy Jim Mann of the Brazos County Sheriff’s Department said his officers have issued eight citations to Brown since the track opened. During that time, formal complaints about the track have been made on 16 different occasions, he said.

Four citations were issued last fall, according to sheriff’s department records. The first was written at 10:30 p.m. Sept. 13, and another was written hours later at 12:20 a.m. Sept. 14. Two more tickets were issued the following month: one at 11:35 p.m. Oct. 11 and another at 11 p.m. Oct. 18.

Another four tickets were issued this spring, beginning May 22 at 1:29 a.m. More tickets followed on May 29 at 10:18 p.m., June 12 at 10:45 p.m. and June 19 at 11:15 p.m., according to the sheriff’s department.

Unlike Bryan and College Station, the county has no noise ordinance. So the deputies write the tickets under the state’s disorderly conduct law, Mann said.

Disorderly conduct is a Class C misdemeanor, and each offense carries a possible fine of up to $500.

Justice of the Peace Ray Truelove said two of the tickets were dismissed. Brown received deferred adjudication for another two tickets that were prosecuted as one, Truelove said. The remaining four tickets are pending in his court, he said.

Mann said his deputies follow certain protocol when responding to a complaint about the race track. Deputies first go to the caller’s home to determine if the noise is unreasonable, he said. A citation is issued only if the noise is considered unreasonable when the deputy arrives.

That is a subjective call, Mann acknowledged.

“ As you know, it’s not a declaration of guilt, but we have reason to believe a violation has occurred,” he said.

The sheriff’s department won’t issue more than one citation to the business per night, Mann said. If more than one person complains each day, then all callers are listed as complainants on the citation so that each can testify in court, if needed.

Mann said sheriff’s officials, along with Truelove and the county attorney, devised the response plan after learning that a race track was planned for the area.

“ We have to remain neutral in this,” Mann said. “They have a right to operate as a business and the citizens have a right to expect a certain amount of comfort in their homes. We have to try to be as fair as we can and get this into the court system.”

Praying for rain

The court system is exactly where Castillo wants the battle.

The noise seems to have gotten worse over the past few months, he said, with residents as far as eight miles from the track complaining about the noise.

“ The only time they don’t race is when it’s raining,” Castillo said. “That’s why we pray for rain, and that’s why we’re getting a lot of rain right now.”

Brown says the noise probably has gotten louder over the past few months. That’s because his business is booming and the track is luring more race car drivers than he had expected. It almost has been too much for the track to handle, he said.

But Brown said he is working furiously to fix the problems. He has been measuring the decibel levels and said they are decreasing, though he didn’t know late Friday exactly what the levels were.

When deputies do inevitably arrive and issue a citation, he accepts it, he said. But the noise doesn’t decrease, because he can’t turn the engines off — he has a show to put on, he said.

Plus, he said, the track is not in a residential area.

“ I’m in an industrial zone. I’m in the airport zone, in the cattle auction barn zone,” Brown said. “In any city ... that is the place you go to if you smell bad or make noise.”

Brown said Friday he wished his concerned neighbors would take up his offer of a free pass to visit the track and see the good things that are going on — the least of which is the money brought to the economy when race car drivers come in for the weekend, he said.

There is more to Hot Rod Hill than noise, he said.

“ This race track is teaching work ethics not just to kids, but to a lot of individuals,” he said.

• Holly Huffman’s e-mail address is hhuffman@theeagle.com.

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