Neighbors take N.H. Motor Speedway to court over country music festival

  • Crowds disperse at the conclusion of the ISM Connect 300 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

Monitor staff
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

New Hampshire Motor Speedway will need to overcome at least one more obstacle before it is permitted to hold a three-day country music festival on its grounds this summer.

Three neighbors sued the speedway in Merrimack County Superior Court on Monday, asking a judge to review a 28-year-old legal agreement between New Hampshire Speedway Inc. and townspeople saying that the track would not hold concerts on its premises.

The 1989 agreement was made after Bob Bahre purchased the speedway, which was formerly Bryar Motorsports Park, with the intention of expanding it into a multipurpose track.

The agreement, which also bans racing after 7:30 p.m., was created to limit noise and control traffic in the area. It was signed by Bahre, nine people who were then living nearby and representatives of Loudon’s board of selectmen and planning board.

The agreement states that the “New Hampshire Speedway ... shall not permit any musical concerts of any type or description to be held on the premises currently known as New Hampshire International Speedway except in conjunction with racing events.”

Officials in Loudon granted permission for the one-time concert, followed by a review of the event’s impact, including noise levels. Both the planning and zoning boards chose to avoid reference to the settlement in their approval of the speedway’s application for the music festival, which was proposed after the state learned it was losing its September NASCAR race to Las Vegas.

The speedway’s lawyers, Bill Glahn and Jennifer Parent, have said that the old agreement applies to speedway only as it existed when it was originally signed.

In their petition, townspeople called on the court to “permanently enjoin” Speedway Motorsports, the Texas-based corporation that now owns the Loudon facility, from hosting concerts that are not tied to racing events.

Jim Snyder, a signer of the 1989 agreement and one of the new plaintiffs, said in exchange for the provisions that limited noise and controlled traffic, neighbors agreed to drop opposition to the speedway’s expansion plans back in 1989.

“For 28 years, we have lived with the noise, nuisance and continued expansion of the facility,” said Snyder, whose farm is near the speedway.

“We have upheld our end of the bargain,” he continued. “All we are asking is for the Speedway and the town of Loudon to uphold their legal commitments.”

David McGrath, executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, said the speedway did not yet have a comment to give on the suit.

“We are in the process of reviewing this petition at this time,” he said in an email.

(Leah Willingham can be reached at 369-3322, lwillingham@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @LeahMWillingham.)