After a lively discussion on the evening of July 21st attended by an estimated 150 people, the Tamworth Planning Board unanimously concluded that the proposed track for racing fast cars and motorcycles on historic Mt. Whittier may have regional impact.
Under state law, that means the planning boards of all potentially affected towns must be treated as abutters and invited to comment on the application. After its vote, the Board set a new date of August 25th to review the merits of CMI’s application for a Special Use Permit under Tamworth’s Wetlands Ordinance.
CMI wants to build a private track to race cars and motorcycles on the north face of Mt. Whittier in Tamworth and must have its Special Use Permit in hand, along with more than a dozen other permits, before it can begin construction.
When the Board took up the question of regional impact, CMI attorney Susan Duprey suggested that there was none and urged the Board to continue with its hearing on the application. Board chairman David Goodson agreed, saying that it would be too bad to bring everybody out again on another warm summer night.
Speaking for the group Focus: Tamworth, attorney Sherry Young objected to the idea of moving forward with the hearing. She read a letter to the Planning Board dated July 9th which said that the Board had not allowed the requisite 15 days between when the application was filed, which was June 22nd, and the June 23rd meeting at which the application was declared complete and the hearing was announced. She also said that insufficient notice of the hearing was given to abutters and other towns.
Blair Folts of the Green Mountain Conservation Group, which monitors water quality in the Ossipee Watershed, pointed to the importance and widespread impact of the Ossipee Aquifer as an indication of the project’s regional impact. A significant recharge area for the aquifer would be affected by the proposed CMI development.
Tamworth resident Peggy Johnson pointed to several ways in which the application did not conform to the intent of the Tamworth Wetlands Ordinance. The ordinance, she pointed out, specifically states its intent to “protect potential water supplies and existing aquifers and aquifer recharge areas.” Carl McNall of Sandwich spoke on behalf of the nearby towns, asking that the board allow other affected towns to give their official input.
Board member Herb Cooper moved that the Board determine that the project has the potential for regional impact. The motion passed with no dissenting votes and chairman Goodson announced that the hearing would be continued to August 25th, the date of the next scheduled Planning Board meeting.
At the beginning of the meeting, Laurel Spector, an attorney acting for Town Council Tim Bates, read a letter from CMI lawyer Duprey requesting that two Planning Board members, Tom Cleveland and Herb Cooper, recuse themselves from voting on the application. Both had signed letters more than a year ago supporting Tamworth’s proposed Emergency Temporary Zoning ordinance. Duprey claimed that meant both were biased against CMI.
Attorney Young, representing Focus: Tamworth, presented a letter asking that Alexandra Cook, who was recently appointed to represent the Tamworth Selectboard as a voting member of the Planning Board, also recuse herself. Young pointed out that a trust of which Cook is the beneficiary sold land to CMI, and that an additional land sale was under discussion, giving Cook a financial interest in the success of the project. She also argued that Cook could not legally represent the Selectboard because she was not an “administrative” town official, as required by New Hampshire statues. Cook was defeated when she ran for a seat on the Planning Board in the March town elections.
All three members refused to recuse themselves voluntarily, and the Board declined to vote on whether or not to request the recusals. Several members of the public spoke against the recusals. “I want people on the town boards who represent me. I voted for these people for a reason,” said Tamworth resident Joe Binsack. Chairman Goodson ruled that the meeting would go forward with all members voting.
Speaking about the Board’s ultimate decision to re-schedule the hearing, Focus: Tamworth spokesperson Charles Greenhalgh said “We’re glad that the Planning Board recognizes the regional impact of this development. We look forward to presenting our views on the Special Use Permit application on August 25th.”