This map shows the location of the five-parcel Mercury development site owned by the Village of Waterford. The village is considering options, including outdoor recreation facilities, for the portions of the site that are not currently slated for development. (Village of Waterford graphic)

Temporary rallycross course pitched for vacant Mercury site

By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

While a first phase of the Village of Waterford’s Mercury development site on Highway 36 is moving forward, questions of when the second and third phases of the project will go forward loom.

As future plans wait in the wings, village officials have begun discussing how portions of the 54-acre property could be repurposed for other uses — including outdoor recreation. The site is on the northeast corner of the intersection of highways 36 and 20.

No firm recommendations came to the surface when the Village Board delved into the issue at a meeting April 13. For now, discussion has been forwarded on to other sub-groups within municipal government, including the Plan Commission and Public Works and Utilities Committee.

The discussion about outdoor recreation stemmed from a proposal from resident Jordan Karweik, who pitched officials on a plan to use portions of the undeveloped Mercury property for a motor sports activity.

“I plan to use the area primarily for rallycross,” Karweik wrote in a letter to village officials. “Rallycross is a form of sprint-style auto racing held on a mixed-surface racing circuit. Only one car goes through the track at a time and competes for the quickest time.”

As proposed, Karweik said he anticipates 30 to 75 racers taking part in each activity. Participants, he said, would likely hail from throughout the region, including such neighboring states as Illinois, Iowa and Michigan.

“It is hard to say how many events we would host per year with COVID-19, but ideally, we would be hosting at least two events per month,” Karweik wrote.

As part of the proposal, Karweik said he was willing to pay the village $1,800 annually for use of the land — until the agreement is terminated — and would assume responsibility for insurance and liability issues.

Speaking in broad terms, Village Administrator Zeke Jackson said he was in support of seeking temporary uses for the undeveloped portions of the Mercury property.

“The Village Board should consider alternative public uses … while we develop phase one of the project area,” Jackson said. “Outdoor uses compatible with the surroundings would likely be appropriate, and we would offer expanded ‘close to home’ opportunities for outdoor recreation.”

Trustee Andy Ewert, who grew up racing motorcycles, said he largely was in support of Karweik’s plans, but offered a caveat — noise could be a concern.

“The people that do these activities typically have money,” Ewert said, pointing out they could be willing to spend money at local businesses. “I think it’s a good idea.”

While there was consensus in favor of allocating temporary uses for the undeveloped areas of the property, which remains in the village’s ownership, several trustees had preliminary reservations with Karweik’s proposal.

“I think it would be a poor location,” Trustee Brent Hess said. “I think we’d be getting complaint after complaint.”

Village President Don Houston said he believed it would be a good idea to pursue whatever possibilities come along, so long as next to no municipal funds were spent on accommodations.

“I wouldn’t want to see much money spent there,” Houston said. “If we find the right person and the right situation — I would be OK with that.”