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11/1/15 NCM Motorsport Park "situation" update


Aug 26, 2004
Tobacco Road, NC
Night Race blue C7
Seems this isn't going to be the slam dunk some thought. Read closely

Park injunction hearing continued

The dispute over the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park noise will run yet another lap.

Proceedings set to continue at 9 a.m. Thursday before Warren Circuit Judge John Grise will explore why the nearby Clark Circle neighborhood isn't quiet anymore and what might be legally done about it.

Longtime Clark Circle residents Janet Jent and Sara Buckley just want the noise to stop. "We don't want the race track to close," Jent said. "It was a quiet neighborhood," she said.

Jent has lived there 38 years and Buckley built her house in 1970.

Most of Friday morning and afternoon, Grise heard testimony from City-County Planning Commission Executive Director Steve Hunter and National Corvette Museum Executive Director Wendell Strode. Grise is pondering a request from Clark Circle citizens group Residents Against Motorsports Track Noise, LLC, Jent and Buckley. The request seeks a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction against the NCM Foundation, prohibiting the NCM Motorsports Park from operating at 505 Grimes Road.

The legal challenge also asks for an award of compensatory and punitive damages against the NCM in an amount to be determined by trial. Strode said Friday that closing the track, even a day or two, would be "devastating" to the relatively new business enterprise. Officials tout the park as a jewel in Bowling Green's motor sports tradition, which includes Beech Bend Raceway and Holley Performance Products.

"I think they could build a wall and stop the noise," Jent, of 391 Clark Circle, said Friday following the hearing. She said recent attempts to build a berm have just magnified the noise. "It just bounces off it," Jent said.

"My sound meter registered 119 to 88 decibels for about three minutes," added Buckley, 404 Clark Circle. Jent, 79, and Buckley, 69, have become the public faces of the legal wrangle that has toured the halls of government since the track opened last fall. The residents have taken their plea for quiet to the park's officials, the planning commission, the Warren County Fiscal Court, the county Code Enforcement Board and even to Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway.

Noise has consequences

In turn, the NCM has received a notice of violation and has been fined $100 for noncompliance with zoning regulations. The NCM is appealing that fine in Warren District Court.

Bowling Green attorney Chris Davenport is representing the residents, and Bowling Green attorney Frank "Hamp" Moore is representing the planning commission and the code enforcement board. The planning commission voted to join the residents in their legal action.

Bowling Green attorney Charles E. "Buzz" English is outlining the NCM defense before Grise as the judge takes evidence in the injunction request. There are both long-term and immediate legal issues to decide, Grise noted Friday in comments to those in the courtroom. During testimony, Grise asked questions of both Hunter and Strode.

As the legal dispute has rolled along, the residents continue to complain about noise and the NCM continues to hold events. In fact, one event is scheduled for military veterans the day of the next hearing.

Jent said after Friday's proceedings that conversation is difficult just outside her house.

"My house is brick and I can hear it inside," Jent added. When go-karts or motorcycles zip around the track, the noise is greater, she said.

"I've got ringing in my ears," she said. "I wear earplugs when I mow the lawn," Jent said to tamp down noise.

The two women, joined by about 18 other people, sat all day Friday on padded benches in Grise's top-floor courtroom of the Warren County Justice Center listening to lawyers talk about binding elements, sound decibels and what this or that piece of paper means in a legal context.

What is 'substantial' noise?

Davenport centered in on the main issue in the dispute: What is substantial noise? Hunter explained that when the park was going through approvals from the planning commission in 2012, NCM officials told residents the track would host sports car club events.

Rules governing the track stipulate that "substantial noise" can't impact the neighbors. Hunter testified that mitigating adverse impacts on neighborhoods are the cornerstone of the county's master zoning plan. "Two policies deal with noise control," Hunter testified.

The park was described in NCM application paperwork as a venue that would host events where people would learn about high-speed driving. Strode testified that he told officials in 2012 this was not going to be a NASCAR track or the like.

'It evolved into something else'

Hunter, who has followed racing for about 20 years and planning processes for about 15, first started getting calls from neighbors near the track when the motorcycles and go-karts were being used. Hunter also found out that green-white-checkered events – timed races where winners are determined with multiple vehicles on the track at once – were being held. "It had evolved into something else," Hunter testified about the NCM business plan.

The NCM agreed to, and the planning commission approved 8-3, rules that Hunter said were now not being followed; hence, the first notice of violation and then the actual citation to the NCM.

Hunter testified that the residents, about 70 of whom attended a contentious hearing over summer at the track, were mad at him for permitting the noise.

There had been one rumble prior to that.

In October 2014, a telephone complaint was made about track noise to the planning commission. When the complaint was investigated by Hunter's staff, there was no activity at the track. "I did not have a valid complaint then," Hunter testified.

But, soon, the noise issue ramped up in intensity.

Hunter later discovered the NCM held events he believed were beyond the scope of the business plan and not in compliance with the agreed stipulations of the planning commission – including construction of a structure to mitigate noise to the neighbors and meeting all zoning requirements

Work continued at the park, and buildings began to spring up as fall 2014 turned into early 2015. The track was becoming an all-encompassing facility with garages and other buildings.

When he faced what he described as "a mob" during the summer meeting at the park, Hunter said he realized he had a major zoning problem on his hands, he testified Friday.

"Clearly, we couldn't work a deal with 70 people," Hunter testified, about the shouting at both him and Strode that night. "It was a cluster to the nth degree."

Strode testified Friday that he believed the park was making progress on the noise issue, building structures and instituting vehicle noise policies in line with sports car clubs. Davenport asked why he opened the motor sports park after being advised by NCM board members that it wasn't in legal compliance.

"We did not think a certificate of occupancy was needed," Strode testified, noting there was just a track and no buildings at that time.

Later, when buildings were added at the park, they were built close to the track in an attempt to mitigate noise. The NCM is seeking a certificate of occupancy, and the planning commission is reviewing that request.

credit: Bowling Green Daily News
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Full disclosure. I re-spaced, added a couple paragraph breaks and added boldface type for clarity, or what I think is clarity. No words were added or deleted. It was hard to read in the original email format that was sent to me.

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