Opinion

A win-win opportunity for Concord-Cabarrus

From the sound of the negotiations over infrastructure improvements related to Bruton Smith's racing enterprise, you'd think he and Concord/Cabarrus County are wildly at odds. They aren't.

They all want a package of improvements – mostly roads – that would benefit area residents as well as the hundreds of thousands of fans who flock to Lowe's Motor Speedway.

They agree on the cost – some $60 million, plus a city-county agreement to extend George Liles Parkway, which would require a state financial commitment.

What they don't agree on yet is how to handle the financing.

Under a proposal by the city and county, Smith's company, Speedway Motorsports, would pay for the work and be reimbursed over time by the local governments. The annual reimbursements would equal 85 percent of increased property taxes from anticipated additions and improvements at the speedway.

But repaying the $60 million that way could take as long as 40 years – too long, in Smith's view. Last week he offered a counterproposal: His company would put up the $60 million, and the local governments would repay it in three annual $20 million payments.

But that, some local officials say, would strain their budgets. Close observers think there are ways to finance the repayment that would meet the needs of both sides.

The situation is complicated by a perception that taxpayers would be giving money to Smith. We contributed to it with a headline on a recent editorial saying he was trying to get more money from the city and county. As we said in a correction Thursday, we misunderstood the situation. We apologize for adding to the confusion.

Some Cabarrus residents don't want to do anything that benefits Bruton Smith. He does sometimes seem to consider a sledgehammer a negotiating tool. But his businesses generate, by some estimates, nearly $400 million a year for the area. Overall he has been good for Cabarrus County, and Cabarrus has been good to him.

The $60 million would pay for public infrastructure improvements that Concord Mayor Scott Padgett says are already needed. Smith's interests and the public's are similar enough for a deal to be made.

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