Neighbors ‘surprised and disappointed’ by court’s decision to allow speedway music festival 

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

  • Vehicles line up at the main entrance to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon to pick up camper passes on Wednesday, July 13, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

Monitor staff
Published: 5/17/2018 6:20:29 PM

Jim Snyder loves Led Zeppelin.

He wouldn’t have hesitated if he ever had the chance to see the iconic ’70s rock band perform at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

But that’s not enough to persuade Snyder that it’s a good idea to hold a three-day music festival with 20,000 people in Loudon this summer.

“When music is heard from a distance, it doesn’t sound like music,” said Snyder, who lives less than a mile from the track. “It’s just noise.”

To Snyder’s dismay, a Merrimack County Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that the owners of the speedway can hold a country music festival on its grounds, despite complaints from abutting property owners.

Snyder and two other Canterbury neighbors – Arnold Alpert and Judith Elliot – must now decide whether they will appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

The neighbors have been embroiled in a lawsuit with the racetrack since December. They claimed the plan to hold a music festival violates a 1989 settlement between the speedway and the town of Loudon that Snyder signed.

The 1989 settlement states that the speedway “shall not permit any musical concerts of any type or description to be held on the premises currently known as New Hampshire Speedway except in conjunction with racing events.”

The agreement was made after Bob Bahre purchased the speedway, formerly Bryar Motorsports Park, with the intention of expanding it into a multipurpose track in 1988. It was signed by representatives of New Hampshire Speedway Inc., eight “concerned racetrack neighbors” and four Loudon planning board members.

Snyder, Alpert and Elliot argued that agreement should still hold, all these years later. But New Hampshire Motor Speedway convinced the court when they argued that the word “currently” in agreement indicates that document applied only to the racetrack that was proposed at that time and not to the lots in the southern end of the property, acquired by the speedway later in 1995, where the concerts are expected to be held.

“The Court concludes that the term ‘premises,’ as defined in the Agreement, refers only to the land owned by NHS at the time the Agreement was executed ... and does not include the Post-1989 Properties acquired by NHS more than five years after the agreement was executed,” Judge Richard McNamara wrote in his decision.

“The use of ‘currently known as’ ties the definition of ‘premises’ to a specific point in time,” he added.

Snyder was not convinced by this argument. He said he believes it’s very clear that the agreement’s reach was meant to expand further than what was being proposed in 1989 – it was meant to limit the overall impact that a racetrack could have on the community.

“It may meet some legal test, but it doesn’t meet the logic test,” Snyder said.

Snyder said appeals are expensive, and he said he’ll have to speak with the other plaintiffs in the case before they decide whether to appeal.

“The decision surprises and disappoints us, but we haven’t had the chance to meet yet to decide what we’re going to do,” Snyder said.

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 in 20,000 visitors in August 2018.

At the end of 2017, Live Nation bought the 9,000 seat Bank of America Pavilion 20 miles away in Gilford.

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