Residents ask planning board to derail NHMS concert plan

Monitor staff
Thursday, October 19, 2017

Loudon resident Michael Harrison began Thursday night’s planning board meeting with a plea.

Think before you allow New Hampshire Motor Speedway to hold a three-day country music festival next year, he said.

“We’ve had numbers of different impacts that are spilling over from the speedway over time, having to do with noise, having to do with traffic situations, having to do with intrusions of private property,” Harrison told the board. “How much more do we have to put up with these people? How much more is our neighborhood going to be impacted? You need to put a stop to this.”

Harrison’s words were met with a round of applause from about a quarter of the 50 people gathered in the Loudon Elementary School auditorium. Audience members included New Hampshire Motor Speedway General Manager and Executive Vice President David McGrath, his lawyers and a group of Loudon residents, many of whom live close to the speedway.

Thursday night’s planning board meeting was the first after the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment approved variances for camping and tenting in conjunction with the festival last month, with conditions.

The ZBA demanded that the three-day concert series be held at the track sometime between June 1 and Sept. 1 every year. The concerts would be held from Friday to Saturday, beginning at 2 p.m. and ending by 10:30 p.m. Participants would be allowed to camp on the speedway grounds for a maximum of four nights – Thursday through Sunday.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway attorney Bill Glahn said that, based on sound studies, sound levels from a concert would be comparable to those of a major NASCAR race traditionally held at the speedway.

Planning board member George Saunderson asked if a typical race runs until 10:30 at night, when the concert is set to end. Glahn said they do not.

Several residents 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.”

“I think this board should do what is fair,” said Hillary Nelson of Canterbury, who lives a mile and a half from the speedway. “You signed that document, or your predecessors did ... You should honor that agreement, and you should say, ‘No, you can’t do this.’ ”

Planning board Chairman Tom Dow said that the board would consult with the Loudon select board with how they plan to address the 1989 agreement.

The planning board will continue the country music festival discussion on Nov. 16 in the Loudon Elementary School cafeteria.

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.

McGrath said the festival could have positive impacts on the town’s long-term economic growth and stability. Live Nation is one of the largest entertainment companies in the world, McGrath said.

“They’re good at what they do and they’ll do the same thing here,” he said. “We are prepared to put on one heck of a show for the whole Capital region.”

Harrison said he supports the speedway, but that the company has gotten out of hand. He said he’s worried that the company will keep expanding its reach until it’s out of the town’s control.

“At some point, we have to draw a line,” he said. “I think the point to draw a line is now – if not five years ago.”

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