He and Jim Hoenscheid met with Tamworth selectmen and town residents during the selectmen's meeting last Thursday afternoon. People interested in the plans for the proposed motorsports country club filled the meeting room and spilled out into the hallway at the Tamworth Town Offices.
If people took nothing else away from the meeting, "I want to leave you with the impression that this is the new management of Club Motorsports," Dahmen said. "My number one objective is to reduce the divisiveness our project seems to have brought to the town."
Among the benefits to the town, Dahmen said, the company will pay 5 percent of the net after tax earnings to the town, once the business starts making a profit. "We are perfectly happy to have our money spent any way the town wants to spend it," he said. "Obviously we've got to build it first."
He said he saw the past, before he took over as president of the company, as water under the bridge, and he wants to focus on the future. "All of us need to be far more open. We need to communicate better," he said. The question is, he said, "How do we get beyond the obvious impasse we're at now? I recognize there are some people who believe it is no way, nowhere, no how. I don't believe that is all people. I believe some people want us to be here."
Dahmen said he believes the biggest issue is noise. Comparing understanding noise to the speed of a car, he said, "We know what 55 miles per hour is. We know what 65 miles per hour is. But very few of us are tuned in to what decibels are." He said a car going down the road at 30 miles per hour produces 70 dBA; at 60 miles per hour the car produces 75 dBA. A truck at 60 miles per hour produces 85 dBA, which is twice as loud as the car.
"The 69 dBA in the noise ordinance is half as much noise as a car going down the road at 30 miles per hour. Now I ask you is it reasonable to say you can only have 69 dBA? I'm sorry but the town does not have zoning and we want to bring something here. Sixty-nine decibels is a level that we just can't operate under," he said.
He suggested that the town could have demonstrations to see what the proposed noises sound like and then have a vote to see what noise level would be acceptable. "That to us would be a fair law, as long as everybody is held to it."
Several town residents said they were insulted by Dahmen's suggestion that people didn't have a sense of the noise levels involved in the proposed track.
"I know something about decibels," said one woman, who works with people with hearing problems. "I know that 69 dBA at high pitch is different than 69 dBA at low pitch. And I know that long term exposure is different than short term exposure. Long term on a race course is quite different from cars and trucks going along the road," she said, adding that there have been several studies of the noise that would be generated by the track, and that people are well informed about the noise issue.
Kate Vachon said that if the track could not operate at 69 dBA at the boundary line, what about the 89 dBA limit 50 feet from the track, which was recommended by the sound expert hired by the Army Corps of Engineers to review various sound studies.
Dahmen responded that the Limerock track in Connecticut, on which that recommendation was based, does not have a single limit of 89 dBA, but has 20 or more days a year of unlimited noise. He added however, that "under certain circumstances we could" operate at the 89 dBA limit. To do so, he said, some cars would not be allowed on the track, and others might need to be modified.
Scott Aspinall said Club Motorsports has not acted as a good neighbor that wants to work with the people of the town.
Although the company now says it plans to apply for a town permit, he said, it has only done so because it is being forced to by the court. He said the Tamworth Foundation donated $60,000 for a sound study, and when Club Motorsports did not like the results, "You people went to the Senate" and had laws changed so the town ordinance would not apply to the facility.
Some people at the meeting spoke in favor of the project and said the proposed track was being singled out unfairly.
One woman questioned the town's noise ordinance, which limits motorsports noise to 69 dBA at the boundary of the property. "I have a rock crusher that wakes me up every morning. Can I stop the rock crusher with this ordinance? I can't, can I?"
Dahmen said several times that the town noise ordinance, and the race track ordinance that preceded it were deliberately set up with noise levels so low that the track would be unable to operate.
"There is no facility anywhere in the U.S. that can and does operate at 69 dBA.
Several people at the meeting disputed this claim, saying it was a compromise accepted by people who were for the proposed facility as well as those who did not want it. Dahmen was not involved in Club Motorsports at the time.
"I was at the meeting where the limit was set. There were people from CMI there. It was a compromise. It was not proposed by one single person with any specific purpose in mind," Vachon said.
Joanne Rainville asked, "If the court rulings do not go your way, what then?"
With town ordinance directed only at his business, Dahmen said, "I do believe it is fair to look to the courts." But if the courts do not find in Club Motorsports favor, ultimately, he said, "I'm not going to be able to build something that is in violation of the law."
Selectmen were quiet for most of the discussion, commenting only at the end.
"I'm glad to see this meeting," said Selectman Tom Abugelis. "I don't want to see the town further divided."
"We do have regulations on the books," said Selectman Willie Farnum. "We will do to the best of our ability to enforce the regulations of the town of Tamworth. I'm here as a selectman to enforce their decisions, not my own."
Selectman John Roberts said, "I hope you listen to what was said here tonight. I hope you get ahold of some of the citizens and try to work something out."