Juniata track generates criticism

Raceway doesn’t violate zoning ordinances

A representative for a flower shop on the main drag in Juniata complained recently to City Council about dust, mud and the aesthetics of a dirt track for racing radio-controlled model cars that has been laid down next door on a hobby shop parking lot.

“I’m all for business, but I don’t think that’s the place,” said Jason Hammel, husband of Peterman’s Flower Shop owner Andrea, speaking of the R/C track operated by Shaffer’s Full Steam Ahead Hobby Shop. “This wouldn’t fly downtown.”

Council members indicated they’d look into the matter, but Community Development Director Lee Slusser said a solicitor has determined the racetrack doesn’t violate the zoning ordinance or trigger land development requirements, while Public Works Director Nate Kissell said track owners have been cooperating with the city and the Blair County Conservation District to correct runoff problems.

When the hobby shop first proposed the track, flower shop personnel seemed eager to have it, so the opposition has been surprising, said Julie Shaffer, wife of hobby shop owner Mark, speaking at the shop after the council meeting.

Many successful hobby shops have R/C tracks, which help the shops sell the 1/10 scale model racing vehicles, made largely of plastic, said Mark, showing boxes of the cars arrayed along his

shop wall.

“It’s all for the kids,” Mark said. The shop operates the track Thursday evenings, with participants competing by the clock and directly against each other, he said.

The track is not a simple oval, but includes mild hills and interweaving pathways, with corrugated plastic piping along the edges and a supplementary area for “scalable crawling” over steep mounds of dirt and rocks.

The 80 x 100-foot complex includes hay bales, a silt sock and an inward tilt at the edge of the alley behind Fourth Avenue.

A rivulet of muddy water was visible in the alley during Friday’s rain, as Hammel pointed out.

But the shop plans to install a timber-edged planter that should act as a barrier to stop the silt runoff altogether, Julie said.

Pressed by Hammel to say when “the runoff will end,” Kissell said his department’s policy is not to be dictatorial.

Rather, Kissel said the department’s job is to “work with residents” to obtain compliance.

The shop wets down the clay track before races to minimize or eliminate dust, Mark said.

Still, the hay bales, corrugated piping and the red traffic cones on the climbing section constitute “blight” for Hammel.

“What I see is a mud pit,” Hammel said. “It’s an eyesore.”

The track could be beneficial for the flower shop, because it draws people to its vicinity, Julie said.

“Why wouldn’t they come speak to us?” rather than take their complaints to the city, Julie asked rhetorically.

She’d be glad to talk to the Hammels even now, she said.

The track is good for participants, because it gets them away from their electronic gadgets, both Shaffers said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.