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Waterford Considers Auto Auction Proposal for Atco Dragway

A proposal to convert the Atco Dragway to an automobile auction raises concerns.

February 25, 2021

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A cultural landmark in the Pinelands, the Atco Dragway, is being proposed to be converted into an automobile auction storing thousands of damaged cars.  PPA has several concerns about the impact of this kind of operation on the edge of Wharton State Forest and along the Mullica River.  On the one hand, the existing dragway would likely not be considered an ideal use from an environmental perspective if it were being built today.  Nevertheless, the site preexists the adoption of the Pinelands laws and was grandfathered in under the Comprehensive Management Plan.  In the case of the proposed automobile auction, there appears to be a potential new environmental risk of a larger scale.  The fundamentally different nature of a racetrack for maintained, functioning cars versus a facility storing thousands of cars, many of which may be damaged and potentially leaking various fluids and chemicals, requires a closer investigation of the impact on water quality.   

In addition to the risk of polluting groundwater, there are threatened and endangered species habitats nearby, and we are not prepared to rule out serious impacts to those populations.  More analysis is needed to understand how the proposed operation could impact threatened and endangered species. 

Furthermore, as was discussed in the Waterford Township Planning Board meeting on February 17, we feel there are unanswered questions surrounding the nature of the proposed use itself and whether it is permitted under the Township’s code.  The applicable ordinance allows “Automobile new and/or used sales and service establishments” as a conditional use on part of the parcel but is unclear on whether the type of business proposed would fall under that provision. 

Closing a legal, contained recreational site while there is so much illegal, destructive recreation occurring in the Pinelands nearby would be a poor outcome for the region.  It is abundantly clear from the amount of public feedback on this project that the Dragway is highly valued by many people.  We are hopeful that both the Waterford Township Planning Board and the Pinelands Commission will demand further analysis of the issues above before approving this project. We encourage others to call in to the Planning Board’s next meeting on March 1, 2021 and express their concerns.  Information can be found on the Waterford Township Planning Board website here.

Update:


Special Meeting about Atco Dragway on March 29th at 7 pm
The Waterford Township Planning Board is holding a special meeting about this project via Zoom. We enourage you to call in and share your thoughts. Link and meeting code available here. You can find the application, agenda, and other materials on the Waterford Township Planning Board website.

65 responses to “Waterford Considers Auto Auction Proposal for Atco Dragway”

  1. Elaine Broyles says:

    I was at Raceway Park in Englishtown last weekend just to see what this change of use looks like. Drag racing is gone and there sits hundreds of wrecked cars, some leaking fluids, parts falling off etc. The once groomed moto cross be area is an over grown mess as is the pro pit side of the track. It’s not a good outcome for a once vibrint race track!

  2. Robert Marsh says:

    State should buy half the land and add it to Pinelands. Other half returned to racing enthusiasts on a smaller scale and an environmental plan…cleaning spills, storing haz mats and idling engine guidelines. Lived here 50 years

  3. Carol says:

    My question is the legality of whether the Grandfather clause transfers to the new owner with the change of use? My comment is: Why would Waterford even consider allowing such a thing knowing the environmental and economic disaster it will inflict upon its citizens? Love or hate the racetrack it is a know commodity. Encouraging additional traffic on your roadways and allowing chemicals to leak into your groundwater is irresponsible and not in keeping with your obligation to protect your residents.

  4. S. Persons says:

    It is important to keep Atco open for generations to come. The kids need a family friendly fun OUTDOOR outlet . It’s where families make memories and enjoy the sport of drag racing ! It is important to preserve the forest and keep the environment safe .Atco has been there for years and there is no evidence of ANY negative affect on the environment! The “junkyard “ will bring hazardous waste and the air quality will also be affected from the commercial traffic emission and junk cars !

  5. Bruce says:

    This is a environmental issue. At the race track when a car breaks down or is leaking the track employees are quick to address the issue and clean up the mess. When you have hundreds of cars leaking fluids into are waters every day it will become a problem. Protect are families and business keep Atco Raceway OPEN

  6. Charles Yannetti says:

    I’m not really believing that adequate area impact studies have been completed.. if they were, it would be known that wildlife will be greatly affected by the pollutants going into the ground.. the local watersheds will also be greatly affected.. and then there should be an economic impact study, where ALL local merchants should be surveyed to determine business loss, should this sale go through.. as small businesses disappear, so will property values, and tax rates will then increase to manage loses.. like Englishtown’s Raceway Park, the sale of Atco Dragway will hurt the masses, while benefitting the few.. DON’T DO IT!!!

  7. Tony G says:

    #1How is it even possible to consider to allow a junkyard with salvage cars leaking oils and fluids in the Pinelands next to the Mullica River and also all the community’s drinking water?
    #2 The revenue it will be taking from the community from Hotels, Restaurants, Food Stores, Auto Part Stores, Gas Station and many more Services. That’s a lot of Income for these Businesses to try to Recoup. (Ask the town of Englishtown)
    #3 The Big Truck Traffic Noise, Jake brakes, ware & tear for the residences, and Archway School on Jackson Rd 24/7, also the small bridges on the rd. (Again ask Englishtown about these problems)
    #4 Talk of closing of the Race Track is all ready enticing much illegal street racing on the streets in the Pinelands. There is nothing good that can come out of this and many people can get hurt .
    #5 How can the Pinelands let something like this to happen when they have stopped many small businesses from expanding.

    Let us all know one good thing that can happen from this?

    Thank You from myself and the Community

    Would the Pinelands give up 200 acres of your property to do this?

    Let Atco Raceway remain a Race Track, it brings in much revenue and services thousands of people every year.

    Help it continue to serve the public for years to come. And also help the owner out to make this happen.

  8. ClarenceN powell says:

    This is a must needed facility,it is a place for family and Friends to enjoy a sport that brings us togther,souls also help small business and have a place for younger drivers to race and cut down on street racing.

  9. Jerry says:

    i have been drag racing now for a number of years, I live in New York City, use to race at Etown till they closed. So Atco became my preferred track. Since the trip for me was about 110 miles each way I was considering moving closer to the track. I was actively looking for property there. Thank goodness I did lot buy a home as planned there. I’m sure there are countless other people with the same intentions but will think twice now since the proposed plan to sell the track.

  10. John Headley says:

    Our neighborhood wells contaminated. Can’t even count how many I know who died of cancer my same age. And we have a salvage yard , been there long time.

  11. Harold J Caron says:

    This town is too small for a Salvage yard to contain 5,00-7,000 wrecked leaking cars! Besides, this is precious Wetland and Pinelands…no place for a salvage yard. I live less than 3 miles from track and if IAA takes control of land, I am afraid my well water, which is my main source of water, will become contaminated. This delicate land is no place for a “Light Industrial” property. They clean up the dragway right after a leak and it does not even get a chance to seep into ground. Another fact…There is no way these local roads in Atco can handle the weight and traffic that will become of this new property. Please… Pinelands committee and Waterford Township.. save this town and take all of this into consideration…..

  12. Chris McEwan says:

    Concur with all the negative impacts of the proposed auto storage facility already brought up in previous comments. Atco Raceway is a landmark. Personally, I have given patronage to the racetrack for over twenty years and plan to continue to do so for many years. Having the land repurposed to this proposed auto storage facility use would mean the Pinelands Commission has zero credibility. March 1 is Monday. This is the eleventh hour. If anyone would participate on The Racetrack’s behalf, now is the time.

  13. Ralph formerly from Maple Shade says:

    I raced on street night many times back in the day. Before street night, we all raced on either Front street, at JFK Stadium or Little Delaware Ave. In Philadelphia. Racing tickets were expensive. It was awesome when Atco opened street night. I am living testament and was all about street racing illegally as a young buck.

  14. Money says:

    I am from Richmond va. Atco have been around a long time .Its not the only place they wont to close. Richmond Drag way may be close also. I use to go to atco in the 60&70 to see the pro stock show .if you close it look to have more street racing. I am 77 now I would be a great Loss. They need to think about what will happen. More dangerous street racing.

  15. Cody levine says:

    I think it would be the best outcome to remain atco drag way. I see it as a historical part of that area.

    If the track must go then i. and many others. rather see the property preserved by the pinelands indefinitely or become an animal refuge.

  16. Duane says:

    Someone should go up to where the auctions are on Rt206 and Rt68 and see how much truck traffic comes towards the Turnpike and Rt130 from the “auctions” beside the environmental concern of it becoming a Junkyard with totaled cars with leaking fluids and potential fire Hazzard right up against the pinelands, owners of homes will be overburdened with truck traffic.

  17. Joe says:

    This is a historical site and a great place for family and friends as well as a great place to legally race your car/truck. If this closes it will be a sad day for south jersey with the next closest track being in Maryland. I assure illegal street racing will be at an all time high

  18. Steve Stasko says:

    Although I am a racer, I am not posting this comment as a racer. While Atco is a significant part of the northeast drag racing scene, it is also a revenue generator for countless local businesses. I know in my trips to Atco, I frequent local restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, and stay in area hotels when I am there, as I do not have a camper. While the salvage yard is not ideal for racers, it is also not ideal for the local businesses that will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in week to week revenue from the closure of the track. The racers do not just support the track, they support your surrounding communities too.

  19. Rusty says:

    How about the PPA buying it to make it like a skate park but for 4×4’s and atv’s? Technical obstacles for the 4×4’s, dirt track for the atv’s, etc… If you want to preserve the Pinelands from malicious offroaders, you need to provide a solution and here it is. And that’s not the best part. Marketed properly, it could be a source of funding for your preservation projects once the operating costs have been covered.

    If my comment isn’t approved, an email was provided for submission. Please let me know why it wasn’t approved. Thank you

  20. Dave Meyer says:

    We don’t need more auto auctions or storage lots in New Jersey. We need Atco to remain open or you’ll force all of us to illegally street race, and Mexico is too far, sooo that means that we will have to tear up the highways and byways of New Jersey and Mexadelphia… Please Keep Atco Dragway. It’s a very family friendly environment for kids to hang with their father, mother, cousins, and friends.

  21. Adam says:

    The track has had offers from people who want to keep it a race track. Locals have had no information in regards to the race track in months because of its management. Its very unfortunate. The race track for me personally has always been a meaningful place to my family, friends and i. I can garuntee you street racing will grow if the track shuts down. The owner currently doesnt know how to run the place. If he did there would be even more people coming from the street to the track. The track keeps some people from not just racing but from other things like drugs and other bad habits. People like me arent just losing a race track, its so much nore than that. Let alone turning it iblnto a place for cars to leak fluids ibto our water, noise polution will escalade highly due to constant driving down jackson road and so forth. And like its been state, endangerment to animals if this change falls through. If this track closes i will be moving out of the state since theres practically nothing good left here. Atco drag way was the only thing holding me to new jersey.

  22. Anthony says:

    This track helps small automotive business when we go and offer our product time are rough but I truly think with the closing of the track will be a big impact on the locals who have small shops to build race cars etc also those who want to get away and release some stress on a Wednesday- Friday night to do a couple passes but a salvage yard !? Do you know how water runs though that land and how much wild life this can effect

  23. James says:

    Very bad idea for environment.

  24. Bill says:

    Great track!! please remain a drag strip! its was devastating to lose E’town we don’t need to lose another track! plenty of other places for a junk yard certainly not in an environmentally sensitive area like Atco

  25. It’s time to START …… Save …The … Atco … Race … Track

  26. BobGaetano says:

    You have the Mannheim property in Bordentown. Isn’t that enough? IAA should lease space from them. Leave Atco alone. I travel from Ny

  27. Michael j pastula says:

    I have been going to atco for over 25 years racing cars and motorcycles now being a father of 4 little kids guess what mt family now looks forward to racing setting up the trailer and hanging out in the pits creating memories please lets keep the track open there’s so much empty land all over nj stay away from the one thing I truly enjoy SAVE ATCO DRAGWAY

  28. Paul M Gold says:

    Atco Dragway is a legendary historic site. For it to be replaced by an automotive junk yard is just wrong !!
    It is tremendously wrong for the environment of the pinelands.
    It is wrong for the habitat of wildlife .
    It is wrong for the safety and peaceful comfort of the local residents.
    It is wrong for the loss of revenue to local businesses.
    It is just a wrong addition to a peaceful area of New Jersey.
    Just wrong – period !

  29. Rick Burnworth says:

    Very BAD idea bringing IAA to the Atco location !! As a licenced Dealer in NJ, I have been to over 40 IAA and Copart facilities and Every one are all the same, Big rocks are spread all over there yards, ( so the fluids cant been seen after it rains ) and Yes i have seen many , many cars, trucks, buses, that have been crashed Many far beyond repair, And over 90 percent of them have something leaking out of them, whether it is Anti freeze, Oil or Transmission fluid, Diesel or other Dangerous Environment Hazardous chemicals that would for sure harm the environment, i CANT Believe THE E.P.A has not already investigating this matter already ! However all the other salvage yards ( to my knowledge ) were not as close to the waterways that Atco is EVERY SALVAGE LOCATION SHOULD BE INVESTIGATED !! ATCO is Not the place for this type of Business !! Please keep it a CLEAN Environment and let the many folks enjoy it as it has been for years !!!

  30. Anthony says:

    Loved this place as a kid. From the races to amazing shows featuring huge jumps and Benny the f**king bomb! If you don’t know him, look him up. Would love to take my kids here one day.

    Keep it open!

  31. Dan Foley says:

    Please put a stop to this from possibly happening. We don’t need another Englishtown occurance with dirty salvage vehicles leaking oil and anti-freeze into the Pinelands watershed.

  32. Bill Hardifer Jr says:

    I would imagine none of the home owners near the race track have any idea what a negative impact a salvage yard will have on the value of their homes come resale time. What a list of qualities to show, ….great schools, friendly communities, questionable drinking water,and oh yes we have plenty of near by junk yards for those last minute car repairs. Come on board members wake up and do the right thing and say no more junk yards in Waterford Township

  33. Richard Whiteman Jr says:

    I want the track to stay right where it is, under new management. I have been going since I could drive and I’m 47 now. I just moved to shamong in 2019 and have been extremely excited to be 5 minutes from the gates. That being said, I also don’t want the contamination that a salvage yard will bring to my well water, the traffic at all hours on my local residential roads, not designed for heavy truck abuse. The impact to local businesses that were built up due to the raceway. The identity of Atco as a drag race town, instead of it being known as a bunch of junkyards.

  34. Joannehamilton says:

    I don’t want cancer from my would be polluted well from those thousands of leaking cars

  35. David Amecangelo says:

    The track that was in danger of being permanently shut down is now probably going to be the only drag strip left in NJ (Island Dragway)

  36. Kyle says:

    I’m New Jersey first responder if you take the race track away there going to be more street race and more deaths on street and that means that someone lost a love one from street race . At race tracks there safety equipment and emergency personnel on scene if anything happens there in sec and on street it take about 10 mins or more emergency vehicles to get there So I think they should keep the race track open so everyone can be safe

  37. Wayne Trautz says:

    Aside from the obvious negative environmental impact that the proposed business would bring , the fact that Atco Raceway has created a safe outlet for young men and women to participate in racing for over 60 years is a very important benefit to having a drag strip available in the first place. Like so many long time racers I began racing as a teenager in my street car. Without the availability of the track I no doubt would have satisfied my desire to race in the streets putting myself and the public in danger. If the track is gone , people will utilize the public streets to satisfy their urge for competition and the thrill of speed and performance . Atco Raceway has filled the role of a safe and legal venue to enjoy the excitement of racing and should remain for generations to come.

  38. Robert Frattone says:

    I’ve never been to a salvage yard that the ground hasn’t been soaked in oil and antifreeze.
    The environment would suffer greatly with a salvage yard replacing the current venue.

  39. Brent Bussell says:

    I think the Track should stay. If the Track closes there will be more street racing deaths for sure.

  40. Jason Calabrese says:

    With the loss of englishtown and now the possibility of Atco this will cause an influx of street racing meaning more accidents and the possibility of death not only the racers but the innocent bystanders.

  41. Frank Richard says:

    I live 1 mile from Englistown raceway park.The flat bed trucks that now drive down my road everyday coming and going towing a smashed vehicle, dropping all the debri from when it hits the bumps on my road is not a great site to see or hear.
    I hate being on a road that is a cut through to the NJ turnpike but I would much rather have the traffic on the weekend of just trucks towing trailers a few hours than 4-5 flat beds every hour during the day and maybe a few in the evening is terrible.
    People who live on these cut through roads near Atco the traffic is terrible.
    These cars are all junk cars people buy to salvage and fix up other cars.
    You could not rebuild one of these cars as they are all labeled Salvage on the title so they can not be repaired and someone charge you as a good Used car so these cars are not used there for salvaging parts.

  42. Chris OKeefe says:

    Atco is great facility. We attend as much as we can from Long Island. We hope it stays a race track and will keep supporting it. Great staff who really care. I hope the dream stays alive there. There are many more appropriate places to land a used and damaged car facility. It will need constant supervision of the grounds and away from our natural waterway. Containment of any fluids leaking is important. Let’s keep racing our well maintained vehicles and keep the used and damaged vehicles in a more appropriate location in a main and easily accessible area.

  43. Luis Lebron says:

    BAD BAD IDEA FOR THE ENVIRONMENT 😡

  44. Arthur Bichsel says:

    The drag strip should stay.
    Storage / sale of salvage vehicles is not the right choice given the sensitive nature of the location.

  45. Mike says:

    It’s sad to say that just like Englishtown the owners don’t care about racers anymore. When Vinny Napp passed away and his children took over Etown was the day it started to go down hill. The new owner of Atco is basically doing the same thing. I’m sure their are people out there who would buy the track from him but he won’t sell to another racer. Having a track there brings business to the community. What will a junkyard bring? Just CRAP!!!

  46. James says:

    A few race cars 3-4 times a week for a few hours vs hundreds of wrecked cars sitting 24/7 365 leaking and dripping oil and anti freeze, it just sounds like a step back in moving toward a greener future

  47. Robert Jon Blum says:

    The NHRA should step up and take over the strip and keep it going. I have been going there from the mid sixties-racing, car shows and watching, it has got to be saved!

  48. Philip Wisniewski says:

    First time at the track I was 12 I’m 72 now, it’s a historic site, all good thoughts. I live on Jackson don’t want the added traffic, in front of Archway School gets very hectic to say the least. I don’t think it’s a good idea to have anything that disrupts the Pines.

  49. roger niemczyk says:

    5000 to 7000 damaged salvage vehicles parked within a 1/2 mile of the mullica river headwaters is biggest concern since it is a low lying area …and they stated that after hours drop off area is unmanned, so vehicle could be leaking for hours without anyone seeing the damage that is being done

  50. Mike Hepp says:

    The track is a landmark for family’s and should remain in place for the future of our sport. just because you can don’t mean you should.
    stay committed to the dream that started when you purchased the property, and good things will come.

  51. April D Kier says:

    As you are well aware, the Pinelands is home to a very unique water system. My older son was in Governor’s school at Stockton many years ago. The class consisted of students from around the United States. It was an environmental class and the professor took them to the Pinelands and explained how people come from all over the United States and Europe to study the Pinelands and the water system. You are charged with protecting with very important and very fragile part of New Jersey and protecting for generations.

  52. Joe laino says:

    The drag strip needs to stay i am a 5th genaration drag racer i live in new york and we have lost every track we had my self and my family have bin traveling to acto for many years its a great faciltiy its our roots and needs to be preserverved for future generatuons dont let the great sport of dragraing die in the northeast its a great tradition and its becoming harder and harder to continue to do in the north east please dont let this track go!

  53. Tim says:

    Let’s make it perfectly clear that this site will end up a junk yard if approved. The lawyers make it all sound like something completely different. The Pine lands Commission and Waterford TWP should not be fooled by these layers that think Parsippany, NJ 07054 is the next town over.

  54. john MI paone says:

    leave the raceway there!!! many great memories there with family friends and new friends i met there!!!

  55. J Alloway says:

    One issue I see is they state ( IAA) they are selling USED cars but under the NJMVC definition of the cars they sell they are considered SALVAGED cars and would not fit the permitted use ?

  56. Peter Monforte says:

    Keeping the drag strip in this area would be the lesser of 2 evils. In the case of the proposed automobile auction, there is new environmental risk of a larger scale. Functioning cars versus a facility storing thousands of cars, many of which may be damaged and potentially leaking oil and chemicals, will be a huge negative impact on water quality and will slowly kill its surrounding environment.

  57. Joseph Amato says:

    I was born and raised in Atco. For the first 21 years of my life if I told people I was from Atco, people would associate Atco with the “Drag Strip”. I have been gone for 40 years and as I read this, it saddens me. Don’t get me wrong, “with change comes opportunity”. But to remove Atco Raceway from that little strip on Jackson Rd. would be so wrong. Economically the loss revenue from local business would suffer. And like others have said, the tradition of going to Atco to watch the races will be lost forever. There is something special to see two cars racing down that track and seemingly disappear in those beautiful pine trees at the end of the strip, that is magical! Please do your homework, on what this will do to community, and the era of the Atco Drag Strip! This is not a grocery store where you can through it down and build another…not the Atco Drag Strip, not at that mystical location!

  58. Rick Robinson says:

    Being a long time Drag Racer and fan it would be detrimental to South Jersey and the Pineland are. Coming from Long Island where we had 3 Drag Strips and now all are gone. I’ve spent a good part of my life in the Military and have seen and been trained in the hazardous effect chemicals have on the environment. We also have to take into consideration how it will effect small businesses in the area. And the extra traffic on Jacksonville Rd which really isn’t constructed for that amount of commercial traffic.

  59. Jack olcott says:

    You should make a personal visit to the former Englishtown Drag Strip site and also the Mannheim auction in Bordentown to observe the turmoil created by the junk yard business and the residue it creates from leaking fluids. Environmental issues will increase with use if granted.

  60. Linda Doyle says:

    It would be a huge loss to the racing community!! Us race families want to maintain racing during the season!!

  61. Joe says:

    And by auto auction they mean junkyard. Right across from Wharton. Terrible.

  62. Brooks says:

    Let’s think about the kids and the adults I look forward to going racing with my family it’s good clean fun lot of good memories and history of the historic community we call the race track I remember going to the track back in the 80s I was a young kid my parents took me there I have been hooked ever since I introduced my passion to my son and we planned to make his first pass in his Jr. Dragster this year we have three generations of racers in my family that raced there long story short please think about the racing community we love Atco Raceway please don’t close down our 2nd home Atco Raceway

  63. Henry Charyk says:

    The environmental hazards an operation such as what IAA is proposing would have a tremendously negative affect in that area. The truck traffic coming in at all hours of the day and night will also have a negative affect on the residents that live on Jackson with them having to put up with the noise that would come from said vehicles.

  64. William says:

    This is absolutely horrible… This business should NOT BE HERE…

  65. Adam Cerquoni says:

    Bad idea for the environment!!

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