Citizens’ Group Wins Wetlands Suit Against Track Developer

Tamworth — December 16, 2005 — The company looking to build a $28 million private driving club for high-performance cars is mulling its options a week after being ordered by a judge to apply for a town wetlands permit. The ruling is being touted by the citizens’ group that brought the suit as a major win for the environment.

On Dec. 5, a Rockingham Superior Court judge ruled against Club Motorsports Inc., of Derry, in a suit filed by roughly 40 members of the citizens’ group, Focus: Tamworth, and an area church, St. Andrews in the Valley. CMI had argued it did not need the local permit to break ground on its planned facility.

The company had hoped to start early work on 250 acres on Mount Whittier without the permit as soon as this winter. But the ruling, which could force CMI to slow its plans to pave a 3.1 mile European-style road course and build an automotive country club, leaves the company with several choices, including a possible appeal to the N.H. Supreme Court, or to file for the permit.

A decision could be made in as soon as two weeks, a top company official said Wednesday.

“We’re weighing our options,” said CMI Vice President of Marketing Jim Hoenscheid. Hoenscheid said the ruling for now stops CMI from any construction that impacts wetlands.

“If we were successful with the superior court case, yes, we were looking at breaking ground,” he said. Hoenscheid said some preparation for grading could still get done this winter, on areas off wetlands.

The project, which sits near one of the largest aquifers in the state, as well as the Bearcamp River and its tributaries, has already earned state and federal permits that found it would not harm local waters.

But Focus: Tamworth, worried about pollution to drinking water and fragile ecosystems, argued in the successful suit that the town ordinance offers stiffer protections.

“The town ordinance allows many fewer things than the state does on wetlands,” said Focus spokesperson, Kate Vachon.

The most critical difference, Vachon said, is that the state allows developers to impact existing wetlands, as long as other wetlands are created. The town does not allow the practice, known as “mitigation,” Vachon said.

“The ruling confirms the validity of the ordinance,” she said.

“The victory is not only for Tamworth,” said Charles Greenhalgh, also of Focus, “but also for municipalities throughout the state.”

“This is truly a victory for local control, and big step toward local regulation of this massive project,” he said.

CMI in August of 2004 was scheduled for a hearing on the permit before the planning board, but pulled out mysteriously at the last minute, saying that it would reapply only if necessary. The board had determined the hearing to be of regional importance, and invited local officials from area towns. Should CMI reapply, Vachon said the planning board will decide whether the track remains a regional concern.

Hoenscheid said the court ruling will not stop the track, which he said will bring jobs, tax relief and good business to Tamworth.

“This will not deter us from our plan to go forward and build valley motorsports park,” he said.

Focus is also considering an appeal of a U.S Army Corps on Engineers permit. Decibel limits attached to the permit are higher than those allowed by a controversial town noise ordinance.

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