Fears of Regional Impact Apparent at DES Hearing on Racetrack

Tamworth — April 29, 2004 — Comments at the latest public hearing on the proposed motorsports country club to be built on Mt. Whittier spanned a range from technical to emotional, as those at the hearing asked state officials to consider everything from locations of wetlands to the quality of groundwater to the view from Tamworth Village.

The gym at Kenneth A. Brett School was packed Tuesday night as people came to the N.H. Department of Environmental Services (DES) hearing on the wetlands application for Club Motorsports Incorporated (CMI) its proposed facility.

The hearing included several prepared presentations from CMI representatives as well as groups opposed to the project, before the hearing was opened up to public comments from individuals. Stephan Condodemetraky, chief executive officer of CMI, was first to comment, thanking both those who came out in support of the project and those who were opposed to it, saying that their comments would help make the project a better one.

Attorney Susan Duprey, representing CMI made introductory comments. She said the project, “has many supporters. They are not as voluable as opponents.” As evidence of support, she said townspeople defeated a proposal to enact emergency temporary zoning last year, and that the issue had become a referendum on whether people wanted the project. More than 550 people voted against zoning. She also noted that more than 350 people have applied for jobs with the company.

Among those present at the hearing were a number of people wearing black sweatshirts and baseball caps with Club Motorsports logos on them. Scott Tranchemontagne, spokesman for CMI, said later that following the previous hearing on April 12, the company was contacted by a number of supporters who wanted to attend this hearing and show their support. So, they met at Chequers prior to the hearing for dinner and gave shirts to those who wanted to wear them.

“You have to realize that these hearings are intimidating for the people who support us,” Tranchemontagne said, adding that those who want to stop the project are very adept at getting people to come out and speak against it. “There is a very good, organized effort by opponents. They do what they do very well.”

Not all those who spoke in favor of the project were wearing CMI shirts, however. David Bowles, a Tamworth resident, said not everyone in town opposes the project, and that many people are looking forward to its being built because the area needs jobs. “It’s plain the goal of the anti-CMI crowd is to stop the racetrack no matter what scare tactics they use,” he said. But he said he believes the project will do more good than harm.

Duprey said the CMI has met with DES officials numerous times while preparing the application. “We have made every change requested of us,” she said, changing the application from its original design in many ways, until it will impact only about a quarter of an acre of wetland.

“We want to state in the clearest possible terms, the impact [on wetlands] will not be significant,” We have been as respectful of the wetlands as possible.” Later speakers disputed this claim, saying that CMI had not properly delineated all of the wetlands on the land, and that their proposal did not take into account further wetlands impacts that they foresaw.

Collis Adams, of DES, said that there are questions about the wetlands delineation and that representatives of the state, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Tamworth Conservation Commission will be walking the site again with representatives from CMI. A group of engineers, ecologists and other specialists representing Focus: Tamworth spoke in opposition to the permit.

Chris Menge, a sound engineer from Harris, Miller, Miller and Hanson reviewed the results of a noise study he did last summer. He said CMI would need to construct large sound walls to block the noise that will be produced by cars racing around the road course, and that these barriers would affect wetlands. He said noise barriers are not included in the current permit, but will be required around nearly the entire perimeter of the facility. He estimated that a 35 foot wall would be needed to block the noise from some of the louder cars expected to use the track, and that no wall could be built that would block the noise of the loudest cars he measured, at 99 decibels.

Further, Menge said, the noise wall or barrier must contact the ground and drainage openings would be required to all water to flow. This would have a significant affect on wetlands, he said. CMI representatives have said that they disagree with the assessment that such barriers will be needed. If barriers are needed, engineers for CMI have suggested that they can be built so that they do not reach all the way to the ground and so, will not affect the wetlands. “With regard to whatever the requirements are, we will meet them,” Condodemetraky said. “With respect to Mr. Menge, you need always to consider the source and who he works for.”

After several speakers commented on what they saw as a need for more sound barriers, Adams made a statement that CMI has said there will be no further affects on wetland pertaining to sound mitigation, and DES will take them at their word. If the application is approved, it will be with conditions, including the condition that there be no future effects on wetlands that have not already been specified in the current application.

If CMI finds later that new construction is needed to mitigate sound, he said, they will have to do it without affecting wetlands, because DES would not consider a change. That is a fairly standard condition, Adams said, and its purpose is to prevent people from submitting applications in a piecemeal fashion. He also said that when addressing the issue of “need” in regard to the wetlands application, it refers to the need for wetland impacts in order to accomplish the project, not people’s opinions about the need for the project itself.

In reviewing wetlands applications, he said, DES has a very limited scope. It must focus on wetlands and surface water, he said, not groundwater, or other considerations.

But those considerations were discussed at the hearing, and several people quoted laws that they believed gave DES latitude to consider affects on community health, safety and welfare, as well as transporation and recreation. George Zink spoke about the importance of hiking and other low impact recreation in the area, both currently and historically, and said that the project would negatively affect this.

Sheldon Perry showed pictures of the Ossipee Mountains and Tamworth Village from near his home in the village. He noted the spot in the middle of a well-known scenic photograph where the facility would be built and said it would mar the scenic beauty that draws people to the area.

Susan Kjellberg spoke about her concerns that fuels at the facility could pollute drinking water and urged the state to reject the application. CMI representatives defended the proposal as not being any more intrusive on the land than many surrounding businesses. “Our site is not in the middle of an untouched piece of wilderness,” Duprey said. It sits on the edge of a stratified drift aquifer that provides drinking water in the area, she said, but it is in an area that has much lower transmissivity than the heart of the aquifer, which is directly under Route 16. “What currently sits on the aquifer dwarfs our plans,” she said.

Marc Bergeron and Craig Lizotte of ESS Group, an engineering firm working for CMI, also said they believe the designs will have minimal affects on wetlands on the site or the nearby aquifer. They pointed out many underground and above ground fuel storage tanks and other potential sources of pollution in the area and said that proposal poses no greater threats. In fact, they said, “We’ve designed the project to be very protective of the aquifer.

Robert Newton, a geologist from Smith College, who has studied recharge areas of the Ossipee aquifer, said he has some concerns that gasoline and other chemicals used on at the facility could seep into the aquifer. Although the land is on the edge of the aquifer, he said, as a hillside on its edge, it is an important recharge area for water flowing into the aquifer.

He noted that the types of fuels used in auto racing are not the same as the gasoline in cars on our streets. They have higher concentrations of MTBE, lead and other chemicals than are allowed in gasoline. He said one gallon of MTBE can contaminate 30 million gallons of groundwater.

Rick van de Poll, a natural resources consultant in Sandwich, said he believes the applicant underestimated the affects the project will have on wildlife. In particular, he said, larger mammals, such as eastern mountain lion, lynx, moose and bear, are known to be in the area and need large, unfragmented spaces to move around on. He also suggested that endangered plant species, the small whorled pagonia and squawroot, may exist on the site. Van de Poll said that the proposed mitigation sites in Sandwich are too far away, are not comparable to the site that is being changed, and are already protected anyway under prime wetland rules. Bob Streeter, a Tamworth resident said CMI’s argument that there are already many other threats to the aquifer, “so, what’s wrong with another one” ring hollow to him. “I reject that logic and I hope DES does too,” he said.

Joanne Rainville, a Tamworth resident and community nurse, said she has several concerns about the health affects of the project, including the affect of increased noise, and the potential for pollution. But she also pointed out that the stress of people in town fighting over the project is already taking its toll on residents.

“It’s sad to see lifelong relationships deteriorate over something as materialistic as a club,” she said, adding that she hopes, “No matter what the outcome people remember what matters. Shake hands with your neighbors and enjoy the land we share.” The public comment period will remain open for written comments until 5 p.m. May 7. They may be mailed to N.H. Department of Environmental Services, 69 Hazen Drive, Concord, NH 03301.

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DES Hearing On Racetrack Draws a Crowd
News article provided by Focus:Tamworth.

Tamworth, April 27 — At a packed hearing at the K.A. Brett School in Tamworth that lasted more than four hours, officials of the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) heard a range of concerns from experts and citizens about the wetlands dredge-and-fill application by Club Motorsports Inc. (CMI). The developer wants to build a $28 million private racetrack for fast cars and motorcycles on the north slope of Mt Whittier in Tamworth. Attendance at the meeting was about 500.

The hearing was chaired by Collis Adams, wetlands bureau administrator for the NH DES. Craig Rennie, the DES officer who is doing the technical review of the application, also attended. Adams denied that the application had been “fast-tracked,” but noted that DES is under an obligation to review all such applications in a timely fashion.

The developers, represented by engineers from ESS Group in Massachusetts, opened the hearing. They admitted that they knew the project would be “difficult to permit,” but defended the CMI plan by stating that they had created an “environmentally sensitive” development that would have positive benefits for the area.

Experts hired by Focus: Tamworth addressed the major deficiencies in the application, highlighting concerns with the identification of wetlands on the Club Motorsports property, the effect on water flowing into the Ossipee Aquifer and the effect on wildlife. The wetlands delineation issue will be addressed at a site visit next week that will include representatives from the DES, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Tamworth Conservation Commission.

The lack of noise abatement measures in the plan as submitted drew particular criticism, since noise control sufficient to meet the Tamworth Race Track Ordinance, enacted in October 2003 and passed with strong support at Town Meeting in March 2004, will increase the wetlands impact of the project significantly. The developer has said that no noise abatement will be needed.

Christopher Menge, of sound engineering firm Harris, Miller, Miller, and Hanson, said that his studies, done last summer at an event involving cars similar to those CMI says will run on its track, indicate that as much as 30 dB of sound reduction will be needed. That level of reduction, he said, is not feasible, so to meet the RTO limits, the loudest vehicles will need to be excluded. Sound reduction of 22 dB would accommodate 90% of the vehicles, but can only be achieved, according to Menge, with massive earthen berms or concrete walls as high as thirty-five feet. Menge added that sound control measures at the perimeter of the facility may not be sufficient to avoid an objectionable level of noise in the area to the north of the track.

Dr. Rick Van de Poll of Ecosystems Management Consultants pointed out that rare and endangered species are likely to exist on the site. Muriel Robinette, of the Manchester office of engineering firm Haley & Aldrich, cited numerous engineering flaws in the application. Dr. Robert Newton, a Smith College geologist who has studied the geology of the Ossipees, said that the proposed project could negatively affect the water quality of the Ossipee Aquifer, which supplies water to towns from Bartlett, NH to Saco, ME. Blair Folts of Green Mountain Conservation Group read a letter of concern from Dawn M. Gallagher, commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Ned Beecher of the Tamworth Conservation Commission reiterated his organization’s request that DES not approve the application and require the developer to re-do the application to correctly delineate the existing wetlands and indicate what noise abatement measures will be used and their impact on the site’s wetlands.

Thirty-three individual speakers addressed the hearing to express serious concerns about the application and the project, including Heidi Frantz-Dale, minister at St. Andrew’s in the Valley Episcopal Church, which is directly across Route 25 from the proposed development. A petition from a group of Sandwich residents and visitors opposing the track and signed by 300 people was presented to DES. Other speakers included representatives of conservation commissions from Wakefield and Madison, the Chocorua Lake Association, the Wonalancet Outdoor Club, the Silver Lake Association and Green Mountain Conservation Group, whose mission is protection of the Ossipee Aquifer and its watershed.

State representative Mark McConkey of Ossipee said that he had received “more cards and letters than I get at Christmas or on my birthday,” and urged DES to “hold CMI’s nose to the grindstone” to be sure that the project met all requirements to protect the environment before a permit is granted.

Speakers questioned the developers’ financial viability and their credibility in light of conflicting statements about the project’s cost, scope and benefits. Others pointed to its potential for negative impact on the tourist economy, which is based on the rural character and scenic beauty of the town.

CMI executives invited everyone who had attended the company’s two job fairs to pick up a free tee shirt at a nearby restaurant and wear it to the hearing, and about forty people did attend the first part of the meeting wearing black shirts with the Club Motorsports logo.

Adams noted that DES will accept comments on the application until the close of business on Friday, May 7. He later said that he prefers comments delivered in hard copy, but will also accept e-mail. The N.H. DES is at 29 Hazen Drive, Concord, NH 03302.

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