Tamworth Track Permit Appealed In Federal Court

Tamworth — October 11, 2006 — An appeal to overturn an Army Corps of Engineers permit for a proposed racetrack on the Tamworth-West Ossipee border has been filed in U.S. District Court in Concord.

The appeal, filed by Focus Tamworth along with the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire and more than 80 other abutters and area property owners, charges Army Corps officials with issuing a permit allowing noise levels significantly above those recommended by the Corps’ own sound expert.

The Army Corps permit is considered one of the most important permissions obtained to date by Club Motorsports, Inc. (CMI), the investment group that hopes to build a 3.1 mile closed-loop racetrack for high-performance cars and motorcycles on the side of Mount Whittier.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, the complainants obtained a copy of the sound expert’s report advising the Corps to impose limitations on permitted noise from the proposed track more stringent than the developer’s noise limitations. Instead, the Corps sided with the developer.

Competing Noise Studies
The disagreement stems from the differences between three different noise studies. The Army Corps was presented with two professional noise studies during its consideration of the community impact of the proposed track. One was from Harris, Miller, Miller and Hanson (HMMH), paid for by the Tamworth Foundation, and the second was from Tech Environmental (TE), paid for by CMI. The Tamworth Foundation study found that noise from the proposed track would have significant adverse effects, while the CMI-funded study indicated no major impact.

Going its own way, the Corps hired a third expert, James Cowan of Acentech, to evaluate the conflicting studies and make recommendations for conditions to be attached to the permit. Cowan’s report stated that the Traffic Noise Model used by TE was “not appropriate or adequate for modeling racetrack noise” and added that the criteria on which TE evaluated noise impacts were “not intended for use in the analysis of racetrack noise.”

Cowan recommended that the Corps set a noise limit of 89dBA or less as measured 50 ft. from trackside, which is the limit at Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park, a facility that CMI officials have cited as similar to their proposed track. Cowan pointed out that the limits in CMI’s proposed operation plan would generate noise levels more than twice as loud as Lime Rock. He also noted that while the Lime Rock site is relatively flat, the proposed CMI site is located on a steep slope and a granite ledge toward the top of the property will reflect noise back toward the town.

“The frequency content and the duration of noise events that could be caused by this facility will sound like no other sound sources in the area,” Cowan’s report to the Army Corps said. “Without appropriate limits, this will change the environment of the Tamworth area.”

Focus: Tamworth spokesman Charles Greenhalgh said the appeal of the Corps’ decision was filed in Federal Court after the Corps declined to reconsider its permit decision or explain its reasons for overruling its own noise expert. Greenhalgh also said that the Falcon Extreme Motorsports event in September at the former site of the Mount Whittier ski area resulted in numerous complaints from local businesses and residents, which he said illustrates how objectionable the noise from recreational motor vehicles can be without significant noise restrictions.

Regional Impact to Be Assessed
As the appeal works it way through the court system, the opposing sides in the racetrack issue are preparing for a public hearing on Tuesday, October 17 at the Kenneth A. Brett School in Tamworth to debate the merits of CMI’s request for a Special Use Permit under the Tamworth Wetlands Ordinance.

The Special Use Permit falls under the guidelines of the Tamworth Wetlands Ordinance, and the project was unanimously voted by the town’s Planning Board as having regional impact. As such, the potential impact was reported to town officials in Moultonborough, Sandwich, Albany, Madison, Freedom, Effingham, Ossipee, Wakefield, Eaton and Brookfield; Baldwin, Parsonfield, Saco, Biddeford, Dayton, Hollis, Buxton, Limington, Standish, Limerick, Cornish, Porter and Hiram.

Also notified were the Lakes Region Planning Commission, Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission and North Country Council, Inc. Tamworth’s town attorney will chair the meeting with presentations by CMI, Tamworth Conservation Commission and concerned citizens.

Focus: Tamworth spokesman Greenhalgh says CMI’s application doesn’t fit any of the criteria laid out in the Tamworth Wetlands Ordinance.

“There are twenty different areas where Club Motorsports Inc’s proposed racetrack will damage the wetlands on its property. And much of the proposed construction does not respect the 25-foot buffer zone requirement of the ordinance. It’s clear that the racetrack proposal does not fit into any of the permitted categories and doesn’t conform to the intent of the ordinance.”

CMI President and CEO Lloyd Dahmen was quoted by the Conway Daily Sun this week as being unfazed by the Tamworth Conservation Commission’s recommendation to reject his company’s application. “It’s only advisory,” the Sun quoted Dahmen saying about the Conservation Commission’s finding. “We believe we will make our case appropriately before the Planning Board.”

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