Loudon Zoning Board approves speedway variances for music fest

  • Scenes from New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

Monitor staff
Published: 9/28/2017 11:43:29 PM

The Loudon Zoning Board of Adjustment voted unanimously Thursday to grant New Hampshire Motor Speedway the variances it needs to hold a three-day country music festival next summer.

The country music festival would be promoted by Live Nation, a global entertainment company headquartered in Beverly Hills, Calif. The speedway estimates it would bring 20,000 visitors in August 2018.

The application was passed with the special conditions that the festival be a three-day annual concert, with acts solely running from 2 to 10 p.m., occurring between June 1 and Sept. 1. Participants would be allowed to stay on the speedway grounds for a maximum of four nights – Thursday through Sunday.

The board approved variances to allow camping and tenting in conjunction with the festival. It also approved the speedway’s application for a special exception to hold the concert on its property, which the town identifies as a “recreational facility.”

Before the ZBA made its decision, the public was asked to offer new testimony to build on what was provided at the prior hearing Aug. 24, which went on for more than four hours.

Hilary Nelson of Canterbury said she lives a mile and half away from the speedway and is kept up at night with race-weekend noise.

“If it was that bad for me, I can’t imagine what it was like for people who live closer,” she said.

Joe Brown, who does live next to the speedway, described it as “invasive.”

“Last weekend was a good example of what I don’t want to put up with,” he said, referencing the major race that took place in mid-September. “What I see here over the years is the old standard ... is now being aggravated. There’s only so many summer weekends that we have to enjoy – let’s not change that.”

During deliberation, board member Howard Pearl said the net result of the music festival would be “less injurious to what we currently have right now,” referencing the Speedway Motorsports Inc. announcement it will move New Hampshire’s September race to Las Vegas in 2018.

“This isn’t a minor event, but it is in comparison to what we have had,” Pearl said.

Some in opposition to the concert referenced a 1989 settlement between the speedway, the town and a group of “Concerned Racetrack Neighbors” that states the speedway “shall not permit any musical concerts of any type ... except in conjunction with racing events.”

Ned Lizotte, chairman of the Zoning Board, said that agreement was made by the Loudon Select Board, and that it would not be something he and his fellow board members would be addressing in their decision.

“You have to take that up with the selectmen,” he said. “We as a board do not have jurisdiction over that particular case.”

New Hampshire Motor Speedway General Manager and Executive President David McGrath said at the Aug. 24 meeting that the performers for the festival would be “A-list” and “top-notch” country music acts. There would be four to six acts per day.

In a statement Thursday, McGrath said the ZBA’s decision is “terrific news for music fans, local business and for tourism in the Capitol Region.”

“We deeply value our relationship with the people of Loudon and surrounding communities and thank the members of the Loudon Zoning Board for their support” he said. “A recent impact study concludes the country music festival will have an overwhelmingly positive economic impact on the region.”

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