Speedway subject of special meeting
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Thompson - posted Mon., Oct. 14, 2013
More than 100 people showed up for a special meeting of the Thompson Board of Selectmen on Oct. 8. The Thompson Speedway was the only item on the agenda.
The meeting was scheduled because of concerns and complaints the board received about construction at the speedway, according to First Selectman Lawrence Groh, Jr. Twenty-two residents signed a letter raising questions about the approval process, whether permits were required and how developments could impact real estate values and the environment.
Groh addressed each of the concerns in turn before inviting the Speedway’s General Manager, Jonathan Hoenig, to address the crowd. “It seems to me the Speedway has been following the regulations to the best of their ability,” Groh said.
Groh said that a conservation commission assessment was done, a wetland permit pulled and approved, several building permits granted by the Planning and Zoning Board and a demolition permit approved. A special permit was not required, according to Groh. While Zoning Enforcement Officer John Mahon had twice indicated he thought a special permit was needed, he eventually signed off on it.
When Hoenig took to the floor, he dispelled three rumors he’d heard that were circulating about the track’s activities. He said there was no connection between the track and a planned campground/gas station nearby, or the Mohegan Sun Casino, and that phase 2 construction plans mentioned in an earlier meeting concerned renovations to the club, not the track.
“We plan to accommodate smaller car club groups and cater to those groups,” Hoenig said. He said the Summer National and Eve of Destruction shows would not be returning to the speedway and that NASCAR events would drop from this year’s 20 events to six events. The hours of operation for the road course would be Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with later hours scheduled for Thursday evenings.
Mark Hazzard asked for assurance that the road track noise would fall below state statues. P&Z Commission Chair Greg Lee said that racing at the speedway was exempt from such statues.
“We own and operate a golf course not 100 feet away,” Hoenig said. “We don’t want to cannibalize it.”
The speedway is also exempt from regulations regarding non-conforming use and earth processing. The first is grandfathered into the regulations and the second doesn’t apply because all earth processing involved is on-site only activity said Groh.
A major question mark for some residents was how construction activities at the Speedway might impact the town’s aquifer protection zone. Groh read a letter he received from Oswald Inglese with the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Inglese wrote that it appeared construction-related activities began prior to the Speedway’s obtaining required coverage. Based on the registration information filed after construction began, and the plans that accompanied it, the Speedway may need to file permits for storm water discharges, contaminated soil and sediment management, and discharge of vehicle maintenance wastewater. DEEP inspectors will inspect the facility “to gather more information and to further determine the compliance issues which must be addressed,” the letter stated.
Jim Sali was satisfied with the meeting. “It was openly conducted. They gave all the information that had to get out. Besides, the decision was already made. There was nothing the selectmen could change or overturn.”
Nick Swearer wasn’t so sure. “We’d like to hold them to what they say they’re going to do,” he said.