won't rule out bond for racetrack
feds: help us, state legislation took away local control
— U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is no longer ruling out a bond as a
condition of a wetlands permit for Club Motorsports Inc. to build a
251-acre motorsports country club at Mount Whittier.
Corps had stated last month that it would not impose a bond, because
bonding is left to local boards. But at a public hearing on Wednesday,
the citizens group, FOCUS:Tamworth, asked the federal agency to require
a $10 million bond against environmental fallout in the event the
project is abandoned because state legislation has taken away the town's
authority to impose a bond. Army Corps officials said they would
consider the group's request.
30, Army Corps attorney Michael Hicks had told the Sun, "We're not
going to require a bond. We're not in the business of bonding
break in the three-hour hearing at the Brett School on Oct. 6, Frank
Delgiudice, chief of the Army Corps Regulatory Division, said the
bonding request would be given the same consideration as any of the 58
testimonials pertaining to the proposed 3-mile, $28 million Tamworth
project. "That's what public hearings are all about," he said.
"To add to to the record what the concerns are."
grant no weight publicly to anything that was said here," the
division chief said. "There are no foreseeable conclusions to this
project... including the bond."
his earlier statement, Hicks said Wednesday, "It is part of the
public record and will be considered as part of the conversation this
to Hicks, his office has no history of adding a bond clause to a permit.
Usually, he said, local boards will take up any bonding issues. "I
asked around and I couldn't find anybody that had heard of us ever
requiring bonding a project. Requiring bonding is an issue for local
people to deal with local permits," he said earlier.
for FOCUS: Tamworth, argued Wednesday that the town had tried to take
local control last year by passing a racetrack ordinance. The ordinance,
attorney Sherry Young said, were undercut by state legislation pushed
exempting Club Motorsports from local control, and that the federal
agency has the power to re-enact the people's will.
In a letter
presented to Hicks, Young wrote, "The USACE has indicated that it
assumes appropriate bonding requirements for this project will be
imposed by local authorities. USACE regulations state that when the
USACE is evaluating whether special conditions are needed to satisfy
legal requirements and the public interest, the USACE can, where
appropriate, take into account the existence of controls imposed under
other federal, state and local programs that would achieve the
continues, "However, there are no local controls that can
adequately protect the public interest. The town's race track ordinance
imposed local controls, including a bond provision and noise
restrictions, but the applicant has obtained a legislative exemption
from the ordinance (SB-458, now N.H. RSA 287-G)."
regulations provide that the Corps 'will add special conditions' to
satisfy the public interest requirement," Young submitted in
additional written testimony. "If the Corps has reason to consider
that the permittee might be prevented from completing the work necessary
to protect the public interest, it may require the applicant to post a
bond of sufficient amount to indemnify the government against any loss
as a result of corrective action it might take."
Farnum, FOCUS steering committee member and Democratic challenger to
State, Sen. Joseph Kenney, backed up Young's statements. In written
testimony submitted to Hicks, under the sub-heading "Army Corps and
DES position is ill-founded and irresponsible," Farnum wrote,
"Both DES and the Army Corps have said that they feel no need to
require a bond because the local permitting process will cover that. In
most cases that would be true. In this case, it is not. CMI avoided all
local control thus far by choosing a town with no zoning, making an end
run around the town's efforts to regulate this project, and refusing to
obtain a special use permit. The Army Corps and DES may be the only
regulatory authority with the power and the opportunity to impose a
bond. Given the enormous potential for significant damage and government
expense if this project is abandoned, the only responsible action for
the Army Corps and DES to take is to require a performance bond in a
Army Corps and DES need to carefully consider the impacts of the
project. Because we can't," Farnum pleaded Wednesday. "We ask
you to do for us what we can no longer do for ourselves."
and Stephen Gaal, venture capitalists and FOCUS members, testified
earlier in the hearing that CMI's finances and experience would prove
inadequate to complete the project. If construction were abandoned
mid-way though, they and many others fear the town would be left alone
to absorb the environmental clean-up bill. "This is a tiny start-up
company, thinly-financed and highly mortgaged. Mr. Condodemetraky and
his management team have no prior experience in building or operating
similar businesses. I am concerned that they will start to build it, run
out of money, and leave us with the problem of stabilizing the
site," Gaal said.
from Haley and Aldrich, a firm retained by FOCUS, estimated that the
track would cost $50 million to build, $22 million more than quoted by
developers. The cost of stabilizing the site if the project were
abandoned would go to taxpayers to the tune of $11 million, Haley and
Aldrich engineer Jim Bartlett said.
maintain they will complete the park's construction on the side of Mount
Whittier at any cost, while standing by their original estimate of $28
million. "Both myself and the investor group involved has the
financial where-with-all to build 50 of these facilities,"
Condodemetraky boasted at the onset of the hearing. Two days after,
company spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne said Condodemetraky was using
the 50-facility figure to illustrate CMI's financial security and may
not have meant it literally.
position is that we will stimulate the economy," Tranchemontagne
said. "We are going to bring in a couple of thousand new visitors
per year to the area. Visitors who have the resources to spend a lot of
money while visiting."
of people were talking about a bond. The Army Corps said they weren't
going to issue one," Tranchemontagne said Friday. "I didn't
hear anything new. It was more of the same allegations," he added.
"A lot of people gave opinions without any facts."
attorney Susan Duprey joined that testimony by project opponents was
only "allegations not borne out by science."
on Sept. 30, that while the federal agency focuses on environmental
impacts, it did make note of financial factors. "We are involved in
environmental evaluation, not financial evaluation," Hicks said.
"I know people up there are concerned about this guy," he
said, referring to CMI President and CEO Stephen Condodemetraky.
"We legally can't take sides, but we didn't go in with blinders
far as we know, he has the financial means to do the project. He
invested a lot of money in legal fees," Hicks said. "We
interpret him as a serious developer."
permit review will consider affects of the proposed Valley Motorsports
Park and road course on noise level, public safety, wildlife and the
Ossipee aquifer which runs from Bartlett to Saco, Maine. According to
the Army Corps the impacts must be minimal. N.H. Department of
Environmental Security has already issued a wetlands dredge and fill
permit, stating that Valley Motorsports Park will impact less than
three-quarters of an acre of wetlands and will not significantly impair
wetlands, surface waters, and groundwater resources; and a site specific
“alteration of terrain” permit.
Corps of Engineers will accept written comments for the public record
until October 16 at 5 p.m. Written statements should reference File
#NAE-200302257 and should be forwarded to the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, New England District, Regulatory Division (ATTN: Michael
Hicks), 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742-275, (978) 318-8157.