Canterbury, Loudon readying for NHMS music festival application

Monitor staff
Published: 3/29/2017 12:13:42 AM

Canterbury is getting its “ducks in a row,” readying for when New Hampshire Motor Speedway submits a site plan application for a three-day country music festival.

Planning board officials met Tuesday night to decide how the town would handle the potential conflict and controversy over the concert proposal and a two-decade-old warrant article put in place to mitigate the track’s “detrimental effects” on residents, including noise and lower property values.

Canterbury officials haven’t taken a formal position on NHMS’s concert proposal, yet, since everything has been conceptual up to this point.

But that could change soon. The Loudon planning board voted last week to accept such a plan from NHMS when it is submitted. In the meantime, both the town and the race track are talking with attorneys about the legal issue before them: a 1989 lawsuit settlement agreement that, depending how it is interpreted, bans concerts on the speedway property not associated with a race.

NHMS is hoping to find a way around this issue – as well as other land use considerations – as it tries to bring a new, large-scale event to the speedway in the summer of 2018 after it lost one of its two major races to Las Vegas.

The concert would bring in an expected 60,000 ticket holders and would allow people to camp out.

If it were approved, the proximity of the event would impact Canterbury residents. So Loudon officials decided that an application from NHMS would be of regional impact, according to minutes from a March 23 meeting.

This means Canterbury will have a seat at the table, and planning board began deciding how to proceed when that site plan application review does come.

Given that NHMS and Loudon are already involved with lawyers – and that Loudon’s lawyer is Bart Mayer, Canterbury’s usual legal counsel – several residents and planning board members suggested Canterbury find its own attorney.

Chairman Art Rose noted that the town didn’t want to take action too early – before a site application was submitted – though others thought it was best to prepare for when that happens.

“The track has not been (known) for playing nice with anyone else,” resident Teresa Wyman said. “Get your ducks in a row. They’re going to walk all over us if they have the chance.”

Rose said Canterbury has been sending informal inquiries to other lawyers.

“We do have someone that has said they will work for us if we chose to do that,” he said.

What exactly the position Canterbury would take through that attorney is still being decided. Planning board member Hillary Nelson reminded her colleagues of the 1998 warrant article promising to maintain the quiet village feel and property values in light of the race track.

“It is possible the town can say this will affect our property base, it’ll become a nuisance for our residents,” she said.

Others discussed the 1989 settlement agreement, which states: “New Hampshire Speedway (agrees) that it shall not permit any musical concerts of any type or description to be held on the premises currently known as New Hampshire International Speedway (‘premises’) except in conjunction with racing events.”

While some believe that stipulation to be applicable to NHMS today, the race track’s attorney Bill Glahn argues the word “currently” indicates this covenant doesn’t apply to property acquired after the agreement was made, including the two lots proposed for the country music festival.

The agreement was signed by NHMS, Loudon officials and “concerned race track neighbors,” including current planning board vice chairman Jim Snyder. No official from the town of Canterbury signed.

“I’m not sure we’re the board to decide whether to enforce the covenants,” planning board member Joshua Gordon said.

Planning board member Tyson Miller said he wanted to be careful that Canterbury didn’t try to take a position before they saw what NHMS submitted to Loudon – the town, he said, should keep an open mind.

Snyder added, “I just want it to be on the record that we’re not against music.”

All lightness aside, resident Arnie Alpert – another “concerned resident” who signed the 1989 agreement – just asked his elected officials to keep their constituents in mind.

“I’ll certainly be looking to you to continue representing the interests of the town,” he said.

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