CMI says ordinance won't allow noise from lawnmower
TAMWORTH — In the battle over sound levels between developers of a proposed driving track for private sports cars and residents opposed to it, the latest noise is coming from 250 signers of a petition who have submitted a special article to be considered at town meeting to muffle exhaust noise.
The special article will ask voters to enact a new noise ordinance limiting decibels to 69 at all “private driving instruction and exhibition facilities" in Tamworth. If enacted, the warrant article would turn the tables on a controversial, year-old state law that freed Valley Motorsports Park last March from a town racetrack ordinance, assembled to specifically target and control the proposed 250-acre facility.
But first, the noise ordinance will be up for debate at the March 9 deliberative session of town meeting.
Club Motorsports Inc. which wants to carve a three-mile European-style road course and hotel into the north face of Mount Whittier, called the move another in a string of activist swipes at development — one that may perch other area business atop a slippery slope.
"If I owned another business in town, I'd be nervous about this," CMI spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne said Thursday. "If they can pass a restrictive sound ordinance on our business, who's next? Can they restrict sound at the log yard? Can they restrict sound at the crusher?" he asked. "Why should they be allowed to single out our business?"
Under the proposed decibel limit, neither car nor lawnmower would be allowed to run on the property, according to a sound study commissioned by the company in 2004, Tranchemontagne said — the study refutes an earlier Tamworth Foundation study that Tranchemontagne said probably first posed the 69 decibel figure. "The 69 decibel level is ridiculous on its face. They know at 69 decibels we would not be able to operate," he said. "At 69 decibels at our property line, we can't even mow our lawn," he said. "Our sound study showed that we would not have a negative impact on the community."
According to press release from Focus: Tamworth, a local citizen's group lobbying to impose town regulation of the project, "A professional sound study in the summer of 2003 showed that noise from CMI’s proposed facility would impact nearby homes and businesses as well as the K.A. Brett School, St. Andrew’s in the Valley Episcopal Church, and White Lake State Park. Noise pollution, the study pointed out, affects physical and psychological health. The Tamworth School Board has asked the selectmen to consider the education, health and welfare of students in any future noise ordinance decision."
Pursuant to a CMI permit application and public hearing, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers has hired an independent expert to look at both sound studies, Tranchemontagne said.
“At this point Tamworth has no enforceable control over the operation of the proposed Club Motorsports Inc. development, or over the activities of other groups that might rent the track,” Focus spokesperson Charles Greenhalgh said. “Without the (racetrack ordinance), Tamworth has no statutory local control of the racetrack’s operations.”
His group is not out to "kill the project," as charged by CMI, Greenhalgh said, Focus wants only to restore local control. “We think it’s important for Tamworth to regain the only element of statutory local control available after RSA 287-G. To truly protect the town, we need an ordinance that can be enforced,” Greenhalgh said in June, when the noise ordinance was first discussed. “We think this is the right way to accomplish that, and we are convinced it will stand up to a court challenge.”
"The ordinance will restore one of the 22 elements of the town’s racetrack ordinance, which was adopted by the selectmen in October, 2003, and affirmed by an 84 percent majority at town meeting last year. The RTO was apparently invalidated by the quiet passage of SB 458 (now RSA 287-G) in early 2004," according to the Thursday release.
Senate Bill 458, now RSA 287-G, took effect days before town meeting 2004, where voters passed a town ordinance that would regulate "racetracks" in Tamworth. SB 458, billed by sponsors as opening a new type of business to the state's economy, redefined the term "racetrack," and separated small private club tracks, from larger, louder, Louden-type spectator facilities. Under the new state law, the non-spectator Tamworth project was exempted from the town ordinance five days before it passed, sending residents into fits and legislators scrambling to apologize for not flagging the seemingly "innocuous" bill in Concord.