Windsor to hear racetrack pros, cons
Zoning meeting tonight expected to draw large crowd
By Sally Trout
Lansing State Journal
WINDSOR TWP. - A proposed $85 million equestrian center, thoroughbred racetrack with simulcast betting and entertainment complex is riding on a special-use permit application.
Windsor Township Planning Commission is holding a public hearing today on the application.
Eaton Rapids developer Dorian Lange optioned 199 acres of industrially zoned land for the complex, to be known as Michigan Horse Park, at Interstate 69 and Lansing Road.
But some nearby residents such as Richard and Judy Dahlgren, who own a six-generation family farm, are fighting the plan they say will bring noise, lights, traffic and lower land values.
"We have rallied the troops," said Judy Dahlgren of Friends of Windsor Charter Township. "Our goal is to stop this development, not just delay it."
Attorney Denise LaFave Smith is representing the group in this fight.
"I grew up in Potterville and I oppose this development, not only because it is not economically feasible, but because of how the gambling component will change the character of the area," Smith said.
While more than 100 nearby residents signed an opposition petition, Lange says there are more in Eaton County who favor the park.
"This park will be the best mousetrap for horses in the Midwest, if not the United States," Lange said.
"With the 200-room hotel and entertainment venue, it will be a huge draw for Michigan."
He hopes to have construction under way this fall and open a year later.
When open, the park will provide 500 jobs, Lange said.
His plans also provide space for 1,100 horses, a veterinary hospital and a horse museum.
A colosseum will cater to youth and horse-related activities, conventions, entertainment - even social events such as weddings.
These are all things Dean and Michelle Frazier feel will be good for the area.
"This will be a beautiful complex and bring much needed jobs to the community," said Dean Frazier, who lives 300 feet from the site.
For his wife, Michelle, the horse park is more appealing than a possible industrial development.
"I'd much rather look across at the horse park, than all the noise, lights and traffic from a factory," she said.
Anticipating a large crowd for the hearing, Windsor Township Clerk Linda Towsley changed the meeting site to the Dimondale Presbyterian Church.
"It's possible, but unlikely the Planning Commission will make any decision Wednesday night," Towsley said.
Typically, it takes 60 to 90 days to get a permit through the planners and township board requirements.
Here are some Michigan horse racing track facts:
• Michigan Racing Commission approved Dorian Lange's track license in October 2004.
• It is the eighth track license issued in the state and was the first new one since 1984.
• On May 17, a ninth license went to MI Racing Inc., for a track in Romulus.
• Great Lakes Downs near Muskegon is Michigan's only operating all-thoroughbred track.
• Other Michigan tracks are in Hazel Park, Jackson, Mt. Pleasant, Muskegon, Northville, Saginaw, Swartz Creek.