Expansion approved at Monticello Motor Club
Story by Eli Ruiz
THOMPSON August 23, 2013 Last Wednesday, the Town of Thompson Planning Board unanimously approved the three-phase expansion plan proposed by the Monticello Motor Club (MMC) located on Cantrell Road at the site of the old Monticello Airport.
The approval will not require MMC to erect the noise-reducing sound barriers several Cantrell Road neighbors and Route 42 residents have asked the board to require MMC to install before moving forward with the planned expansion.
A private, high-end automotive club, MMC bills itself as “North America’s premier automotive resort and private racetrack.” MMC features 4.1 miles of road track and provides an array of services and amenities to its members including professional instructors, trackside support, premium vehicle storage, race car rentals, fine dining and more.
Town of Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini said, “They’ve [MMC] gone through a very extensive, long process in order to gain these approvals.
“A whole lot of negotiating and discussion, meetings and the such were held before this determination was reached,” added Cellini.
The agreement also references noise impacts which lie at the heart of the expansion’s opposition and the “enhanced acoustical study (sound study) the board required MMC to perform through the firm AKRF.”
“Review of the measured sound levels as reported in the AKRF sound study shows that there is [a] barely perceptible 2 to 3 decibel, or imperceptible 1 decibel or less change at all monitored locations under the busy non- race-day conditions when compared to ambient conditions,” reads the agreement. “Under the race-event conditions there is a barely perceptible, or imperceptible change in all monitored locations, with the exceptions of Ripple Road and Rupp Road monitoring sites when compared to ambient conditions.”
The sound study found that only one site, Rupp Road, could benefit from noise mitigation.
“The [Planning] Board reviewed the original sound study, a mitigation study, and a peer review study, and all studies concluded that barriers would not mitigate the existing noise,” said deputy Town Attorney Paula Kay-Drapkin. “The sound study concluded that the only neighbors seriously impacted by sound were on Rupp Road. Therefore, if the MMC builds a turf parking lot on that side, they will be required to add an evergreen tree line, which our town engineer will approve.”
Try telling that to Ann Culligan whose home sits just across the street from the ingress to Cantrell Road on State Route 42. Culligan, who has led the effort to force MMC to erect a sound barrier, claims the noise from the track is unbearable.
“We’ve been here since we built the house in 1961 and this just used to be such a peaceful neighborhood,” said Culligan. “That’s just not the case anymore. We’ve never asked them to go away… we only asked for sound barriers. They did a sound study, but my property was not included in it.”
Culligan said she’s even installed the recommended triple-pane windows throughout her home but, “they haven’t helped the noise at all,” she claimed. “We have to turn on all of the air conditioners, and then turn the television up all the way just to drown out the noise… we shouldn’t have to live like that in our own home.”
And that’s just inside her home: “Outside… forget about going outside [when the track is active], says Culligan. “We [her husband Jim and herself] want to sit out on the deck and enjoy all the books we were denied raising our children, but you just can’t concentrate because of the noise… it’s just horrible.”
Culligan further claims that MMC misrepresented itself to the community at its inception.
“They came in here saying it was just going to be a wealthy club where members could drive their Ferraris around the track… now they’re going to be having four professional races per year,” she said of one of the approvals.
Culligan says that the large trucks carrying vehicles for MMC often damage tree limbs from her property when trying to negotiate the turn onto Cantrell Road from Route 42, and says that one such truck actually took out a utility pole on one occasion, leaving her without electricity.
“Now how is this road going to be when they bring in 1,000 people for these professional races?” asks Culligan.
She concluded, “ We were not surprised by the Planning Board vote. The meetings were a waste of taxpayers’ time. This was a sham, and there is no mediation of noise.”
On Cantrell Road there are multiple homes with “I Love MMC” support signs pitched on their lawns.
A random stop at one such home found 28-year resident Stephanie Johnson, who said, when asked how she felt about the recent MMC expansion approval, “I’ve actually written letters of support for the Motor Club. They’ve always tempered it by saying that the Planning Board needed to make sure that they were to take into consideration the impact that the Motor Club has on the neighbors that are closest to the club.… the Motor Club doesn’t affect us in any way.”
Still, Johnson supports MMC, and noted, “They’ve certainly shown their commitment to our community by its investment.… It’s just difficult for some to accept change, and this change has affected some more than others. It is very difficult to balance what homeowners need to enjoy their homes with what a growing business like MMC needs. This is something that I know the Planning Board has worked hard to mitigate.”
A call to MMC President Ari Straus for comment on this story was not returned as of press time.