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Compromise eludes Speedway and neighbors

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NEW LEBANON–The Town Board held a public hearing last week to air the opinions about two proposals for local laws that would affect the Lebanon Valley Speedway on Route 20 in West Lebanon.

The proposals result from a petition submitted in June and signed by 168 people, 45 of whom are New Lebanon residents, targeting the speedway.

The speedway includes a half-mile oval dirt racetrack, drag strip and go-kart track, plus a camping area. It has been in operation for 63 years and employs 80 people. The track brings visitors and revenue to the town and has the highest attendance of any single attraction in the county.

One of the two proposals calls for “time-of-day and day-of-week restrictions on automobile racing.” It would limit the speedway’s operations to a schedule running from April to September on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays with events not to begin before 10 a.m. and end no later than 10 p.m. Violators could be fined up to $10,000.

The second law proposes a noise control code that would operate by request of parties complaining of excessive noise, as defined by an acoustical engineer. Repeat offenders could also be fined up to $10,000.

The petition and proposed laws are another attempt to regulate the racetrack after Speedway owner Howard Commander was barred from creating a nearby motocross track in 2010 and was unsuccessfully challenged by a residents’ group in 1996, who challenged expansions to seating and parking.

Dan and Clellie Lynch of East Chatham have lived a mile from the track for 31 years. They claim that since the 1990s the drag strip has expanded unchecked, with added events, testing and tuning, and longer hours, leaving them with less peace and quiet. Comparing the New Lebanon track to others with imposed curfews, Mr. Lynch stated, “We are the only town in New York state to endure this kind of frequency and noise from the Speedway.”

Mr. Commander called the Speedway “the biggest little track,” acknowledged, “We do run a lot, no ifs ands or buts about it.” But he sees some of the proposed restrictions as incompatible with the operation of his business. The outdoor dirt track operates seasonally; cars can’t drive in heavy rain or excess dust, which impedes visibility. Mr. Commander worries that imposing further restrictions on the track would reduce a race-day schedule already subject to weather delays. “You would like to put us out of business and that’s not gonna happen,” he said.

Town Supervisor Mike Benson suggested that both the Speedway and its opponents pick three representatives for further negotiations, with the hope of avoiding a protracted legal battle.

 

 

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