Track alive with sound of… music?


Lebanon Valley Speedway owner says big concert is in works

NEW LEBANON–Despite the town’s long and sometimes controversial experience with concerts at the Lebanon Valley racetrack, track owner Howard Commander said this week that there are plans afoot for a “multi-day music festival” there.

Mr. Commander, who made the statement after the April 6 meeting of the town Zoning Board of Appeals, said the idea originated with Kenneth Flood, the county planning director and commissioner of economic development. Mr. Flood’s office said he is on vacation and not available for comment.


The file on the track in the town zoning office goes back more than 30 years and contains many references to concerts at the facility. Three hundred residents of several area communities signed a petition in 1982 asking the town to ensure that the track would be liable for any damages to their property. The concerts were stopped some time after that.

Although the proposed event was not introduced at the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meeting, town Zoning Enforcement Officer Stan Koloski’s written report to the board said that he had received a telephone call requesting a permit from a music promoter who had told him, he said, that he had met with Mr. Commander and been told that there is “no problem” holding the event. Mr. Koloski said the concert promoter, whom he did not identify, expected parking for recreational vehicles would be a big part of the event.

Mr. Koloski told the promoter that camping would not be allowed, since Mr. Commander had no permit for camping. In his report Mr. Koloski wrote that he anticipates that Mr. Commander will not seek a camping permit but will instead “unilaterally consider his campground overnight parking.”

The issue of camping at the racetrack goes back to 1994, when the Town Board told Mr. Commander that he needed a permit. He responded that the cost would be “prohibitive.” As a result, he said in a letter to the board, “there will be no camping on the grounds” and that signs were being painted to that effect.

That was then. This week ZBA Chairman John Dax said Mr. Commander’s application for a campground had been “lingering on our docket for a year or more” because it had never been completed. Mr. Commander then confirmed that he planned to withdraw his application.

But Mr. Dax noted that county health department Environmental Health Director Michael DeRuzzio advised Mr. Commander in a March 29 letter that what he is now calling “overnight parking” will still have to comply with both local and state law or Mr. Commander will risk both fines and the loss of his other permits.

Mr. Commander asked for an additional month’s extension of consideration of his campground permit application.

Mr. Dax responded that he was “beginning to suspect that we’re being gamed here for the sole purpose of staying execution of the law,” since any attempt to prosecute Mr. Commander for violating the rules might be challenged by Mr. Commander pleading that he has an application in process.

Mr. Commander’s attorney told the board that if there is any enforcement action, “We will not make that response.”

“On that basis,” Mr. Dax said, “I will say we can wait another month.”

One issue that did get resolved at Tuesday’s meeting is Mr. Commander’s application for a permit to operate his go-cart track. The ZBA approved that request with conditions–among them a limit of “no more than 200 vehicles” at the events, a number that includes both participants and spectators. Also prominent among the board’s concerns was additional noise. “The problem with the valley is that all sound rises up,” ZBA member Jeanine Tonetti said. The permit requires that the “most restrictive muffler” recommended by a sanctioning organization will be used on the go-carts. They may only operate between the hours of 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The board also slated an April 13 site visit on the appeal of Robert Mittnight for his property on state Route 20 and county Route 9.The board also set public hearings on the applications of Darrow School to install four 7-ft.-diameter wind turbines at a height that exceeds local regulations, and Svetlana Yuzhelevskaya’s appeal of side and rear setbacks ; both will be heard at the next meeting, May 4.

To reach Gail Heinsohn email


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