Published DateBy Daymond Steer
TAMWORTH — Public hearings on two petitions targeting the town's wetland's ordinance will be before the planning board on Wednesday night. The petitions are supported by Club Motorsports, an organization that's been at odds with the town for years over its proposal to construct a driving-themed country club.
"We'll hold the hearings and let people speak to them anyway they want," said planning board chair Dominic Bergen.
The hearings begin at 7 p.m. at the K.A. Brett School. Club Motorsports' plan is to build a country club for enthusiasts of performance cars and motorcycles. The club features a 3.3-mile European-style road course, professional driving school and personalized instruction, driver training areas, vehicle repair and technician service, paddock suites and car storage, a clubhouse with locker rooms, lounge, bar and cafe, and a possible future hotel, according to Jim Hoenscheid of Club Motorsports.
"We have started construction outside the jurisdiction of the T.W.O.," said Hoenscheid, referring to the Tamworth Wetlands Ordinance. "We have not completed any of the items."
Hoenscheid says his organization supports the petitions.
"We join with the citizens of Tamworth who recognize that the state has the rules and staff to expertly and efficiently regulate and protect wetlands," said Hoenscheid. "CMI (Club Motorsports Inc.) believes the petition to amend the T.W.O. is consistent with Tamworth's longstanding opposition to zoning, and further, that this common sense amendment is appropriate because the state's comprehensive wetland and alteration of terrain regulations already protects water quality."
Club Motorsports and the Town of Tamworth have been in and out of the courts for years over conflicts regarding the planning board's decision to deny Club Motorsports a permit under the town ordinance. Club Motorsports and the town were in Carroll County Superior Court on Friday about the permit denial and they will be back in court Tuesday morning at 10 a.m.
After Wednesday night's hearings, the planning board will decide if it supports the petitions, and its recommendation will appear on the ballot. Residents will have the chance to vote on the petitions in March.
The petition to amend the ordinance would delete a section that gives the planning board jurisdiction over a 25-foot buffer section for wetlands and would also make it unnecessary to obtain a special use permit or other approval from the town planning board for a use that's already been permitted by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services or Army Corps of Engineers.
In her petition to amend the ordinance, lead petitioner Stephanie Webb says she seeks to "streamline the process by which business owners and private citizens receive permits to use their land while maintaining protection of conservation land."
Webb could not be reached Monday as of press time.
Both petitions would have the same impact of gutting the ordinance and any local control over wetlands, which are important to the local ecosystem, said conservation commission chairman Ned Beecher. The commission helped create the ordinance in 1980 and helped update it in 1991.
"If you take those things out there's not much left," said Beecher of the buffer and the local permit requirement. "Yes, it is a pain for landowners to have to get another permit, but wetlands are so critical to the integrity of the environment around here that taking a little more time to reduce impacts to them will save us all hassles and money in the long run."
In addition to the dispute with the town, Club Motorsports is also in a dispute with nearby St. Andrew's in the Valley Episcopal Church, which is taking Motorsports Holdings to Superior Court over alleged violations of the wetland ordinance.
Motorsports sent a letter to selectmen saying there may be a wetlands ordinance violation on the church's property.
State Rep. Mark McConkey (R-Freedom) said the ordinance has been a stumbling block for homeowners, living near wetlands and or water, who want to rehabilitate failed septic systems. People trying to do that need to come to a planning board hearing before they can get the work done and that could delay their projects by over a month.