Sullivan County Democrat
O n l i n e  E d i t i o n National Award-winning, Family-run Newspaper
  NEWS ARCHIVES Established 1891 Callicoon, New York  
home  |  archives

Motor club neighbors plead for sound barrier

By Kathy Daley
MONTICELLO — October 22, 2010 — On a clear day, you can hear the buzz two miles away from a location like the Monticello Government Center. And for some, it’s not the good kind of buzz.
The roar of racing cars at the privately owned Monticello Motor Club (MMC), off Route 42 about a mile south of Mr. Willy’s restaurant, is noticeable for quite a distance. But it’s driving nearby homeowners crazy.
“Literally, the noise is unbearable,” said Joan-Marie Bauman, who lives on Rupp Road near the racing club. “We live in a cooperative of 12 homes and all of us are affected. So are residents of Haddock Road, Daisy Dingle Road and Schoolhouse Road.”
Residents in the area, who say they can hear the racing cars and screeching brakes inside their houses with all the windows shut and TVs turned on loud, have now formed an association called Concerned Citizens of the Town of Thompson. They have circulated a petition, signed by well over 100 people so far, pleading for sound barriers to lessen the noise.
“All of us have tried very hard to live with this for the past three years,” said Ann Culligan, who lives a half mile away on Route 42. “But we are actually victims here. You cannot believe the noise.”
MMC President Ari Straus indicated last week he was not closed to the concept of sound barriers. “We are open to discussing anything that could provide a positive impact on our community and our business,” he said.
But Straus added that the former tenant on his 650-acre property, the Monticello Airport, operated without sound barriers.
“Rather than build large, gray walls that would create a sense of isolation,” he said, “we designed – at enormous expense – large berms with stunning landscaping to beautify Cantrell Road and improve a large, dilapidated property. These designs were open for public comment as part of a lengthy approval process.”
High-end users
The Motor Club was launched in 2008 as a high-end car racing club for wealthy enthusiasts, including famed comedian Jerry Seinfeld. The initial membership fee is $125,000 and annual dues range from $9,600 per year for full membership to $3,000 per year for limited use of the racetrack.
The cars are Porsches, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and other vehicles costing in the high five- to six-figure range.
The club is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week from May-October, and according to Strauss, there are about “two to three dozen” events at the club yearly that involve large numbers of cars.
It is at those times that it is “like having 50 motorcycles going by your house all at one time, and they never just go by, they just keeping going around,” said Richard Chiger, who lives on Route 42 a mile from the Club.
“We are taxpayers, too, and we probably pay more collectively than the Motor Club does,” said Chiger. “Our town board should be protecting us.”
Trying to find answers
Chiger said the residents have turned up at Town of Thompson board meetings for over a year, asking for relief. The town board told them to call the Building Department to log in their complaints. The Building Department took down the concerns, but said they could do nothing about them, said Chiger.
Homeowners were then advised to meet with the Planning Board. But they were subsequently told the Planning Board meets only on specific proposals and does not handle complaints.
Town Supervisor Tony Cellini said last week that he understands the residents’ concerns, but that the Monticello Motor Club was operating legally under the permits it received.
Cellini did add that the town attorney “is working on some things involving the noise issue – we hope to have an answer at our next meeting.”
Supervisor Cellini pointed out that the Monticello Airport generated quite a bit of noise in its day. “I got my pilot’s license there, and it was very busy,” he said.
Boost for economy
Cellini also stressed that the car club has been a big plus for the local economy, a sentiment echoed by Roberta Byron-Lockwood, president of the Sullivan County Visitors Association.
“The MMC has been a tremendous community partner, investment developer and revenue generator to our county economy,” she said.
Terri Ward, president of the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce, said the Motor Club has been outstanding in supporting local charities, schools and law enforcement agencies. They have sponsored events for the Center for Discovery, Cops for Kids Charity Race, and the YMCA with fundraising events open to the public. MMC sponsors a teenage driver education program at Monticello High School with incentives and rewards for students who improve their studies and don’t speed on local streets.
The MMC is also used by local law enforcement agencies for driving and training exercises, Ward said.
MMC President Straus said that last week the racetrack hosted clients from the Sullivan ARC, the agency that provides services for people with developmental disabilities. This was the third such visit by the ARC this year, he said.
Victor Waknine, who operates the Buona Fortuna restaurant on Route 42, hailed the Motor Club for giving a much-needed boost to merchants and restaurateurs.
“The club members started coming here to eat, and then the MMC asked me to cater for them,” Waknine said. “It’s a big boon for Monticello, the best thing that has happened to Sullivan County in a long time.”
Ari Straus added that MMC members and their guests routinely stay overnight at the Inn at Lake Joseph or the Lodge at Rock Hill, among others, after eating dinner at Mr. Willy’s or Bernie’s or Buona Fortuna. “And our employees – many of whom moved to this area – fill Vino’s, Dutch’s and other wonderful places,” he said.
During the primary driving season, from April to November, “we employ over 80 people, mostly local residents,” Straus said, adding that he and MMC Chairman Bill McMichael live most of the year in Monticello as well. “We shop here, eat here and call this our home, too.”
The club was a $40 million investment and so far in 2010 has received 10,000 unique visitors.
But all that might be of small comfort for the MMC’s neighbors.
“We’re feeling like we’re just not that important,” said Chiger. “Government is supposed to protect the interests of all the people, not just private interests.”

top of page  |  home  |  archives