Latest Franklin County Raceway Controversy Pits Cousin Against Cousin
Posted June 1, 2004 6:49 a.m. EDT
PILOT, N.C. — The owner of a race track where an accident killed a woman last summer wants a green light to race again.
Spectator Candace Brown died when she was hit by an out-of-control jeep during an event at Five County Raceway.
County officials said the man who owns the track did not have the proper permits to hold the event. But now he has filed paperwork to run that race and others.
According to the county planning board, track owner Hugh Williams only had a permit to race go-karts, and he was taken to court after the fatal accident.
Williams said his track was not only entertaining, but also was charitable. He has not held a race at the track since the accident but hopes that will change soon.
Little has changed at the Franklin County raceway. The fence still is torn open from last August, when the modified jeep flew out of a mud pit with a stuck throttle, striking and killing Brown.
Williams has submitted plans to bring that race back.
"I've tried to weigh the good and the bad," he said, "and I can't turn my back on all the good things we've done here."
Williams filed a petition to add dirt bikes, four-wheelers, and a tractor and truck pull in addition to the mud slings.
Local resident Lynn Williams plans to fight it. He has started a petition of his own.
"We don't need this kind of thing in our community," Lynn Williams said.
"I don't know where this guy is coming from. He should find a hole and crawl in it, not be in the public eye. He should be ashamed."
Controversy followed the accident. Hugh Williams pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges for not having the proper special-use permits.
He was ordered to pay court costs but maintained that his original permit sufficed.
He hopes to go back through the county planning process and clear his name for good.
"I've thought about it, prayed about it," Hugh Williams said. "I've done everything I know to do about it."
Lynn Williams and Hugh Williams are first cousins, which gives an indication of how closely connected the community is and how divisive the issue can be.
The county planning director has not commented on Hugh Williams' new plans. But he has asked Williams to submit more information.
The issue goes before the planning board next Tuesday night. If approved, it heads to the County Commission, and a public hearing would be held.
Lynn Williams said he expects the final decision to be difficult for the community, no matter which way it goes.
"I may tear it apart," he said. "But if that's what it takes, that's what we have to do to maintain the quality of life."