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Michigan taxpayers may pay $25M to move racetrack 4.5 miles

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(The Center Square) – Plymouth Township trustees have yet to say if Michigan taxpayers will shell out $25 million to move a horse racetrack 4.5 miles.

When the Northville Downs horse racetrack closes at this year’s end, it might move to Plymouth Township. Established in 1944, Northville Downs is Michigan’s oldest and only nighttime harness racing track.

A January Detroit News report said Plymouth Township lobbied for taxpayers to bet $25 million on the move and new operations, but whether it will receive it is unclear. Plymouth Township officials haven’t returned multiple calls seeking comment about the possible taxpayer subsidy or a possible opening date.

Project plans say the complex would include a half-mile oval harness racetrack, a two-story grandstand, racing building, horse barn and maintenance building on the 128-acre site.

Northville Downs offers seasonal live harness racing from March through October, year-round simulcast wagering and holds special events such as the Northville Spring and summer carnivals.

Currently, Northville Downs is on the corner of 7 Mile and Sheldon Road. The proposed new location is near 5 Mile and Ridge Road.

Some Plymouth Township residents oppose the racetrack, saying increased traffic would congest 5 Mile and the surrounding roads and cause an increased public safety load. The site claims the racetrack could expand to a casino, which is banned under the Initiated Law 1 of 1996.

The site says: “Our township neighborhoods are changing right before our eyes – Gambling, warehouses, big box stores, what else?”

In planning documents, Plymouth said the possible deal could bring financial benefits. Northville Downs provides about $200,000 annually to the city of Northville in breakage fees, the difference between the winning payouts and the nearest dime to every dollar.

So if a winning bet paid $4.14, the bettor gets $4.10 and the $0.04 would flow to a local city or township.

The township said this development would enact an immediate timeline, unlike the previously proposed industrial park. The proposed development would provide public access to the Johnson Creek linear park and connect to the existing trail in Northville Township to the north. The protected wetlands would provide a buffer zone between residents and Ridge Road traffic.

Plymouth Township provides publicly the traffic assessment, emergency preparedness plan, site plans and more. A February plan says the development would include 276 regular paved parking spaces 197 overflow spaces and 44 car/trailer spaces.

Plans say the track’s infield could hold three regulation soccer fields, be planted with a high-traffic grass mix, and be suitable for use as a sports field, concert venue, or craft fair.

A 7,900-square-feet patio would be constructed on the east end of the racing building, which could be used for private parties, additional seating, or for four regulation pickleball courts.

A walking path would be constructed around the site’s perimeter, within the required 25-foot wetland buffer. The trail would be paved and fully ADA-compliant.

Solar panels could be installed on the building’s rooftop to reduce peak load demand. A larger field may provide “solar credits” to the Northville Downs at Plymouth Township neighbors.

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