Tamworth — September 13, 2004 — Lobbying by opponents of the planned racetrack has apparently paid off and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to hold a public hearing on the 251 acre motorsports park proposed to be built on the north bank of Mount Whittier.
The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and Army Corps will jointly hear pubic comment Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Kenneth A. Brett School in Tamworth on a permit application by Motorsports Holdings, LLC to place fill in wetlands and streams pursuant to the Clean Water Act. Registration will begin at 6 p.m. The Army Corps does not usually hold public hearings on private projects.
The federal permit review will consider whether or not the proposed Valley Motorsports Park and road course will acceptably impact noise level, dust, safety, wildlife and the Ossipee aquifer. According to the Corps the impacts must be minimal.
CMI spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne said that the company is working proactively with the Army Corps and will send several representatives to the October 6 meeting. “We’re focusing now on the Army Corps process. It is one of the final permits,” he said. A spokesperson for local anti-track group, Focus: Tamworth, said the public hearing is a welcome opportunity for all southern Carroll County residents to comment and ask questions.
“We are very pleased that ACoE has decided to come to Tamworth and hear from local residents about this proposal,” said Charles Greenhalgh of Focus: Tamworth. “We know that many Tamworth residents, property owners and visitors wrote to the Corps asking for a hearing, and we are grateful to them for taking the time to express their concerns.”
In addition to determining compliance with federal regulations, the Corps conducts a wide-ranging public interest review, where conservation, economics, aesthetics, cultural values, fish and wildlife, recreation, safety, the need for the project, and environmental concerns are evaluated. “Anyone with comments in any of those areas is encouraged to come and present them to ACoE,” he said.
Greenhalgh explained that as it may seem unusual for the Corps to hold a public hearing on a private developer’s project, the immense size of the proposal, coupled with public concern over impact across lower Carroll County’s recreation and tourist areas, convinced many residents to write the Corps asking that they be allowed to present their arguments in a public forum. “Evidently the Corps was listening,” he said.
The vocal citizens’ group has been drumming up concern in surrounding towns in recent months regarding potential regional impacts of the park beyond Tamworth. The group has contacted local selectmen and is scheduled to make a presentation before Madison selectmen on September 21.
CMI spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne responded in an email, “It’s not surprising that the project opponents at Focus are trying to pressure the officials in surrounding towns to oppose the project. That’s their strategy.
“Ossipee selectmen basically decided that it’s not their business to tell Tamworth what do do. I suspect Madison will do the same,” he said.
Mystery still surrounds CMI’s withdrawal last month of an application to the Tamworth planning board for a special use permit under the Tamworth Wetlands Ordinance. The hearing was scheduled for an August 25 planning board meeting, billed as an opportunity for area towns to consider what regional impact if any the proposed $14 million motor sports park may have on the Ossipee aquifer. Focus: Tamworth contends that CMI needs the Special Use Permit to begin construction. CMI has said that new information dictated the withdrawal, and that the company will respond to the town if and when it becomes appropriate.
“As you know there are other permit applications going on,” added Tranchemontagne. “The Army Corps is one of the final permits.”
DES is currently reviewing the project’s application for a Site Specific “Alteration of Terrain” permit, also considered a major permit by Club Motorsports Inc. The state agency is also weighing a request by anti-racetrack group, Focus: Tamworth to reconsider a Wetlands “Dredge and Fill” permit issued to CMI on July 29. The DES review found that the Valley Motorsports Park will impact less than three-quarters of an acre of wetlands and will not significantly impair wetlands, surface waters, and groundwater resources.
Focus: Tamworth filed an appeal with NHDES on August 18 requesting a reconsideration of the July 29 permit issuance on a number of grounds, according to the group’s attorney Sherry Young. NHDES has 30 days from the filing date to rule on the request and may opt to hold a public hearing in the interim.
“The permitting process is unfolding slowly, and still has a long way to go,” Greenhalgh said.
The project as proposed would be located on a 251-acre site immediately off of Route 25 in Tamworth, and include the construction of a motorsports country club with an associated 3.1 mile road course, access road, parking and facilities for the repair, garaging, and servicing of high-quality vehicles and accommodations and dining facilities for club members, guests and visitors to New Hampshire.
Approximately 0.73 acres of wetlands and streams would be filled by site development activities, which would include the filling of 14, 759 square feet of wetlands and an impact of 165,952 square feet to intermittent streams, according to an Army Corps press release. The site contains vegetated wetlands consisting of forested swamps, including red maple swamps, and low-lying hemlock stands, and wet meadows, and the site contains intermittent streams that consist streams that range from 1 to 15 feet wide.
Proposed mitigation for the project includes the preservation of a 107-acre parcel of land within the Bearcamp River Watershed in Sandwich, and restoration of 450 square feet of on-site stream channel.
The application for the federal permit was filed with the Corps of Engineers in compliance with Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which regulates the discharge or fill of material in United States waters, including wetlands. The Corps public notice with plans and descriptions can be reviewed online at the Corps website http://www.nae.usace.army.mil.
Written statements of public comment should reference File #NAE-200302257 and should be forwarded to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Regulatory Division (ATTN: Michael Hicks), 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742-275, (978) 318-8157, no later than Oct. 16, 2004.