ELGIN - With a 3-3 vote to table the discussion, the Union County Planning Commission gave itself another month to consider the construction of a race track north of Elgin.

Rod Terry, the majority stockholder of the 950-acre Terry Ranch, said he was frustrated by the delay.

"I don't know what's going to happen next month," he said.

Petitions both for and against the construction of the track have been circulated, Terry acknowledged.

Last Monday's Planning Commission vote came after more than two hours of debate with about 40 people in attendance.

Scott Hartell of the county Planning Department said later "the record has been closed," meaning there will be no further public testimony, either written or oral, when commissioners meet for further consideration Jan. 26, their next regular meeting.

Terry wants to build a sand drag strip and oval dirt track to be managed by the Starkey Race Club. He is petitioning the commission for a change in his conditional-use permit that would allow this.

Terry said that he has also spoken with members of the Elgin Outlaw Race Club about a possible future move from their dirt track on the Elgin Stampede grounds.

The Terry Ranch is zoned agricultural-timber. Terry obtained a conditional-use permit to manage a campground on the property in 1999. He said he felt a racetrack should also be allowed under the permit as a recreational park.

Concerns raised at Monday's commission meeting included questions on noise, the use of alcohol, security and traffic congestion.

Terry attempted to address these while reading from a prepared statement. He cited a study on noise levels conducted by La Grande Stereo and Music that recorded levels of 60 decibels at the nearest residence and 14.4 decibels trackside. Terry said he felt these levels were acceptable.

Objections were raised at the commissioner's meeting that these readings were for one vehicle only and were not realistic.

Terry said no alcohol would be allowed during races and that cleanup would be provided by high school students.

The Terry Ranch can be reached by using either 10th Street or Middle Road to access Palmer Junction Road. Although the 10th Street route is shorter, Terry said the Middle Road route would be the designated route indicated on highway signs.

Oregon land-use laws stipulate that conditional-use permits may be granted if the proposed change is suitable for the original zoning and is compatible with existing usage.

At Monday's meeting, Commissioner Doc Savage noted that there are 38 residences within a mile of the property and that the area is atypical of ag-timber properties.

Commissioner Linda Birnbaum moved to deny the permit as incompatible with existing usage, but the motion failed on a 3-3 vote.

Smaller parcels of ag-timber land were grandfathered in when Oregon changed its land-use laws in the early 1970s, it was noted. Because of this, the Palmer Junction valley is a widely varied mix of small and large holdings. Terry said this creates confusion for property owners in the area.

"I would like a determination as to how I should manage my land, as ag-timber or as five-acre residential," he said, adding he would not hesitate to develop the property if it were designated residential.

Terry said he has never raced himself and that his motives in developing the track are economic. Three scheduled weekend races per season would give much needed exposure to the Terry Ranch Campground, he said.

Terry's wife, Emelda Terry, also would like to develop a concession stand for the racetrack.

The Elgin Outlaw Raceway, said Terry, has benefited the city economically and the same benefits would come from a Terry Ranch facility.

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