Monday, November 23, 2009

Smoke Signals (Big Canoe): AMP opponents win first round in legal battle

Judge denies motion to dismiss, allows AMP lawsuit to proceed

Hidden Still Farms is adjacent to the proposed Atlanta Motorsports Park.

By Barbara Schneider

A judge’s motion provided the first significant victory for opponents to construction of Atlanta Motorsports Park (AMP) in a rural portion of western Dawson County.

Richard Wingate is the attorney for West Hamryka, the homeowner whose property Hidden Still Farms is adjacent to the proposed Atlanta Motorsports Park. On behalf of the Hamrykas, Wingate filed a lawsuit against the City of Dawsonville, its mayor and council, Atlanta Motorsports Park, LLC, Jeremy Porter (Forsyth resident and AMP developer), and EHK Investments, LLC.[Ernie Elliot]. The suit claims the defendants are responsible “for the unlawful interference of [the Hamrykas’] right to enjoy the possession of their property and for the disruption of their business.”

On Nov. 12, Judge Kathlene Gosselin issued an order completely denying all of the defendants' motions to dismiss (full text of the statement below).

Community protested

Earlier this year hundreds of residents throughout Dawson County, including many from Big Canoe, attended months of City of Dawsonville meetings to voice their opposition to the city’s approval of AMP.

On April 13, the Dawsonville City Council unanimously approved rezoning 152 acres along Duck Thurmond Road for the proposed Atlanta Motorsports Park on April 13. The vote reclassified a portion of 1,500 acres currently owned by the Elliot family along Duck Thurmond Road near Hwy 53 from residential 1 to CIR (restricted industrial district). (For the complete story see: “Dawsonville okays AMP rezoning,” Smoke Signals Online archives or Smoke Signals, May.)

Meeting with the media after the vote, West Hamryka, who owns a 70-acre horse farm directly across Duck Thurmond Road from the proposed motorsports park, vowed to continue the fight. “We are prepared to take this to the next legal step.”

The City, he said, basically threw out the land use plan approved last year. He vowed to sue the City of Dawsonville for improper spot zoning and said he was willing to continue the fight in the courts.

The Hamrykas are seeking an injunction to prevent construction of the motorsports park, as well as at least $3 million in damages, plus legal fees. Per the ruling, the case now enters the discovery phase for the next several months.

Attorney Wingate’s statement:

“The citizens of Dawson County were granted a major victory in their endeavor to prevent the Atlanta Motorsports Park from destroying the peace and tranquility of this rural community. Judge Kathlene Gosselin issued an Order on November 12 completely denying all of the Defendants' Motions to Dismiss. The Defendants include the City of Dawsonville, its Mayor and Council, Atlanta Motorsports Park, LLC, Jeremy Porter, and EHK Investments, LLC.

The Defendants had each filed Motions to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Dr. and Mrs. Hamryka, the adjacent landowners, and owners of Hidden Still Farms, Inc, a world class horse boarding and training operation.

In the Order, the Court held that the Plaintiffs' complaint was properly filed and served and that the Plaintiffs had properly stated a claim for injunctive relief from the nuisance that would be caused by the AMP development, if it is constructed. Defendants had previously characterized Plaintiffs' lawsuit as "frivolous." The November 12 Order clearly demonstrates that Plaintiffs' lawsuit has merit.”