Letter to the editor, Thu, 12/03/2015
Planning and Zoning is under-appreciated
We would like to thank the Planning & Zoning Commission for the extraordinarily hard work they put forth in their efforts to resolve longstanding local conflicts. They have always listened, and we believe, considered carefully the arguments presented. Often decisions had to be made that have had far-reaching consequences for everyone involved, yet they made those decisions with careful thought about the implications for the whole town.
The Planning & Zoning Commission is arguably the most important commission in town. It is charged with the almost impossible task of protecting the present, while administering regulations that often restrict what people may feel entitled to. At the same time, they must plan for the future of their constituents, many of whom may disagree on what that future should look like. Our community relies on their good judgment to ensure stability, while allowing for growth and yet still maintain proper land-use practices.
The commission can meet twice a month, as well as hold public hearings and special meetings in order to update zoning regulations. There are many additional hours of work besides the public meetings. Over the course of the last seven years Jon Higgins spent countless hours working with the Lime Rock Race Track and the residents of Lime Rock. His work has been invaluable.
Chairman Michael Klemens has shown careful guidance and determined leadership, to fairly resolve the longstanding issues that have existed between the Lime Rock Race Track and the surrounding neighborhood. No solution is perfect, there are elements in the revisions that either one side or the other may be opposed to, but without Mr. Higgins’ and Chairman Klemens’ hard work, along with the input from lawyers, we would be back where we were six months or six years ago.
Again, we want to thank you, and the other commissioners, for being fair, and for all your hard work since you are all so under-appreciated.
Letter to the editor, Thu, 11/24/2015
No negotiation on Lime Rock Park
Skip Barber’s letter to the editor (Lakeville Journal, Nov. 12) made clear what many people have long suspected. His attempt to modify the injunction that regulates noise levels at Lime Rock is aimed at maximizing the value of the business he owns and little more. His letter shows no concern about the impact of Sunday racing on Trinity Church, on concerts at Music Mountain, or its effect on neighboring property values. Mr. Barber states: “We wouldn’t do anything that hurts the neighborhood.” But if he gets his way, it’s a victory for him and a major loss for hundreds of others.
Let’s be clear. Lime Rock Park is a vital part of the community that brings valuable business to the area, and I’m personally proud to live nearby. I don’t know anyone who wants the track to be shut down. But Lime Rock Park and the community have coexisted for nearly 60 years under rules that regulate noise levels on weekends. The Lime Rock Citizen’s Council wants nothing more than to maintain the status quo.
Mr. Barber states that he and his attorneys want to negotiate a compromise. But what is there to negotiate? God granted us one day of rest every week. That’s a covenant that goes back well before the injunction regulating noise at Lime Rock Park. And it’s not negotiable.
Letter to the editor, Thu, 11/19/2015
I beg to differ on Lime Rock
I am a member of the Lime Rock Citizens’ Council, a parishioner of Trinity Church in Lime Rock and a former resident of Lime Rock.
I am disturbed by three statements in The Lakeville Journal’s editorial of Oct. 30 regarding the Lime Rock racetrack.
(1) You refer to a conference that was then to take place and now has, before a judge of the Litchfield District Superior Court. You state, “...that conference is where the real negotiations will happen, or should happen.” (Emphasis added.) I beg to differ. Contrary to whatever the track’s attorneys have said or may say, Planning and Zoning Commissions (P&Z) are mandated by Connecticut land use law as the forums of first and primary jurisdiction for land use disputes such as this one — not our Superior Courts.
(2) You state the following at the end of your third paragraph, “... Michael Klemens, chairman of the commission, clearly stated both before and at the hearing that the issue of Sunday racing was not in the purview of Planning and Zoning.” (Emphasis added.) That is wrong. He said something quite different, that the issue of Sunday racing was not before the commission at that meeting. Indeed, it is hard to imagine him saying that the P&Z has no jurisdiction over the issue of Sunday racing given that the terms of the court injunction regarding racing are already incorporated by reference in the present P&Z regulations.
(3) I also take issue with your final paragraph. Counsel for the Lime Rock Citizens’ Council, Tim Hollister, pointed out on the record at the Oct. 19 P&Z meeting that the situation which now exists in Salisbury, whereby governance and control of the track’s activities has heretofore been carried out primarily in the Superior Court, is a complete anomaly, one which exists nowhere else in this state. For our P&Z to take jurisdiction of the track’s activities would not, as you state, “... change the way towns across Connecticut see and handle a range of zoning issues going forward.” It would instead treat such issues as they are, have been and would be treated in any other town in the state.
I am saddened to see you, Janet Manko, and the Journal endorsing and advocating the track’s legal game plan — a plan designed to bring about huge changes so detrimental to our town, to Trinity Church, to the Lime Rock Cemetery and to Music Mountain.
Stuyvesant K. Bearns
Letter to the editor, Thu, 11/19/2015
Lime Rock Park’s side of the issue
Last week’s letter from concerned neighbors accused me of “taking aggressive action” (going to court to modify the injunction that regulates Lime Rock Park noise levels and hours of unmuffled activity) rather than having Planning and Zoning control these issues, even though P&Z acknowledge they can’t regulate noise. Furthermore, while the Commission may regulate elements such as sign-age, screening and accessory use, they may not regulate the hours or days of operation or use the zoning regulations to micro-manage the day-to-day operations of the track.
On Aug. 3, 1958, in the early days of zoning, one year after the park opened, the P&Z Commission adopted a “Plan of Development” for Salisbury: “As has been stated many times, many of the nuisance factors objected to by local residents are not within the jurisdiction of the [P&Z] Commission and can best be dealt with by other legal procedures.”
Some unhappy neighbors and Trinity Church followed that path, filed a nuisance suit, and in spring of 1959 an injunction was granted. It’s been modified twice since; Planning and Zoning have not participated in any of these actions.
Racing has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. In 1959 Lime Rock had 10 major, two-day spectator (as opposed to private) events. All events were amateur races.
But major spectator days today are professional, fewer in number (three to five per year), but require more hours/days. The sanctioning bodies that control professional racing demand that tracks provide time for unmuffled support races and other required, associated activities. These sub-groups pay to participate; their payments are increasingly important to both the sanctioning bodies and the tracks.
We went to court to ask for more unmuffled hours on the major spectator weekends. We are the only major track in America without Sunday racing; our current races consist of two-thirds fewer hours than any other track. If we can’t accommodate, our viability is in question.
The letter charges that we want “22 Sundays of racing,” which is incorrect. We want two unmuffled afternoons, and 20 muffled afternoons. We’ve monitored all our muffled activities this year from the Church to see which ones aren’t troublesome; these are the activities we would run. We’ve not yet monitored our Winter Snow Driving Programs in the upper infield, but we know they make no noise.
We wouldn’t do anything that “hurts the neighborhood.” Surely our neighbors realize that over the past several years we have significantly reduced noise levels on muffled days (see Martha Miller’s letter, Sept. 17 issue) and likewise our neighbors hopefully realize we are the economic driver supporting our hotels, B&Bs, restaurants and other local businesses.
Finally, we want to resolve all the issues being discussed. My attorney said in the public hearing that we were ready and eager to negotiate. He wrote a letter to the Lime Rock Citizens Council’s attorney requesting negotiations. In court last week, he asked if there were to be negotiations. The attorney for the Council has so far refused to even consider discussions.
Letter to the editor, Thu, 11/12/2015
Disagree with editorial on Lime Rock Park
In response to your recent Lakeville Journal editorial (Oct. 29) on the Lime Rock race track, I do not believe that the decision of the Planning and Zoning Commission “could become a precedent-setting one for the state.”
Essentially, what the P&Z Commission is proposing is to simply add the actual language of the relevant court injunctions involving the track and the Lime Rock community into the zoning regulations. Thus instead of just referencing the injunction in a footnote that is contained in the current regulations, the P&Z just wants to insert the actual language of the injunction. There are also several other proposed changes which involve accessory uses, signage and defining what a motor vehicle is — all of which fall within the purview of Salisbury’s P&Z Commission.
Why the big fuss over insetting the language of the court’s existing injunction which was long-ago agreed to in a stipulation between the track and the Lime Rock community? This nonmaterial change to our zoning regulations should be a nonevent. This is a local matter, which should be resolved locally, by the P&Z Commission and not turned over to a Litchfield court.
Letter to the editor, Thu, 11/05/2015
Lime Rock Race Track should stop its legal action
The Salisbury Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) is considering a proposal to incorporate into the Zoning Regulations the terms of court orders dating back to 1959 that restrict activities at the Lime Rock Race Track, including a prohibition on Sunday racing. Those court-ordered restrictions have remained unchanged and unchallenged since minor revisions were entered by agreement of the parties in 1988. On Sept. 4, 2015, the track filed motions in Litchfield Superior Court seeking expansive and drastic changes to those restrictions that have protected the health and welfare of the surrounding community for more than 50 years. The track’s motions seek 22 Sundays of racing, long weekends of unmufflered racing and expanded campgrounds with unrestricted hours of access.
The Lime Rock Citizens Council takes the position that the PZC’s proposal to incorporate the terms of the court-ordered restrictions into the zoning regulations does nothing more than make those restrictions public, accessible and transparent, and ensures that any attempt to change or modify those restrictions will be discussed and vetted in a public forum rather than behind the closed doors of a courtroom. Our local Planning and Zoning Commission, not a judge sitting in Litchfield, is best positioned to monitor the track’s compliance with those restrictions and to consider any proposed changes or expansion that will have a direct and potentially adverse impact on the surrounding community.
The PZC has worked diligently for over five years with both the track and the community to develop a regulatory framework that accommodates the track’s right to conduct its business while ensuring that the community’s interests are protected. The Track’s unexpected decision to take aggressive legal action has derailed that cooperative process. The public’s comments at the Public Hearings held on Sept. 8 and Oct. 19 make clear that a wide majority of the local community unequivocally support the PZC’s efforts to institute a framework that balances and protects the interests of all stakeholders.
If, as the track’s legal counsel asserted throughout the Public Hearing, Mr. Barber truly wants to “work with the community” and truly wishes no harm to Trinity Church, Music Mountain or the residents and neighbors of Lime Rock and the surrounding communities, the track should stop its legal action and allow the Planning and Zoning Commission to do the job it is empowered and qualified to do.
Submitted by the Steering Committee of the Lime Rock Citizens Council:
Letter to the editor, Thu, 10/29/2015
Don’t change regulation of Lime Rock Park for Sunday racing
Following is an edited version of the statement made, and letter presented, by Music Mountain President Nicholas Gordon at the Salisbury Planning and Zoning Commission’s public hearing concerning Lime Rock Park on Monday, Oct. 19.
I want to state Music Mountain’s position regarding any changes in the regulations or operations of the Lime Rock Race Track.
Music Mountain is not concerned with the track being regulated by the Planning and Zoning Commission or by the Court, as it has been since 1959, as long as the regulations are enforced and as long as there is a continued prohibition against extended racing hours on Saturday and any racing at all on Sundays.
Our concern remains that the noise from racing cars is so overpowering and continuous at Music Mountain, and into Gordon Hall, that any sound recording is absolutely impossible. On any Sunday that a race would take place at Lime Rock, we would be unable to broadcast that concert. Nothing we would be able to do could overcome the racing noise.
Music Mountain is an international nonprofit arts institution, now having just completed its 86th season. It is the oldest continuing summer chamber music festival in the United States and was the first serious arts institution in this part of Connecticut.
While the audience that comes to Music Mountain each summer is significant, growing and, most importantly, provides the financial support that permits Music Mountain to operate, a major part of our audience for more than 41 years has been our radio audience (last estimated at 300,000 to 400,000 per concert), which is now dramatically increased by the Internet and such sites as YouTube. When we add this, our audience numbers increase dramatically. Example: Instant Encores, listened to, as of last week: 72,321 times on six of the seven continents (excluding Antarctica.) YouTube listened to and viewed, as of last week: 261,717 times.
And finally, our website pages had another 109,845 page views, again from six of the seven continents(excluding Antarctica).
While the track is 4-plus miles by road from Music Mountain, the distance by air is only a little over 2 miles. Added to this is that Gordon Hall’s elevation is 1,050 feet, while the track is at about 500. The track sits in a bowl which acts like a loudspeaker sending sound up the channel between the track and Music Mountain at a volume that creates insoluble problems.
Let me be very clear. Since the track opened in the 1950s, Music Mountain has had no quarrel with the track, nor does it today. Our only concern, as I said at the opening of this statement, is any change in their regulation or operating rules that permit races during a lengthened Saturday afternoon or on Sundays, which will be a disaster for Music Mountain and will damage us irreparably.
Nicholas Gordon, president
Music Mountain Inc.
Editorial, Thu, 10/29/2015
Time for serious and fair thought on the race track
There is just something about the sound of an internal combustion engine that falls meaningfully on the 21st century human ear. For some, it is evocative of adventure, freedom, independent life, the lure of the open road. For others, it is sheer noise, the grating sound of fossil fuel becoming part of the atmosphere and adding to global warming while other people make their way to their destinations. Compound the sound by multiples of those engines and the reactions compound as well.
This is evidenced in the strong reactions of area residents to the discussion of changes to the regulation of the activities at Lime Rock Park, most recently at the Oct. 19 Salisbury Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. As reported by Patrick Sullivan in last week’s Lakeville Journal, the meeting was attended by so many town citizens that it had to be moved from the Town Hall to the Congregational Church across the street. Really, it looked more like a town meeting than a P&Z hearing. While the public comment did not adhere to the topics under consideration by the commission members, the emotional reaction of many residents to the sound of those engines at the track needed some venting, and this was the best opportunity they must have felt they would have for the foreseeable future.
There was no decision made on the matters at hand, even after almost three-and-a-half hours of the public hearing. Those topics included adding accessory uses, controlling signage, defining a motor vehicle and incorporating the language from the 1959 injunction that regulates the track into the zoning regulations. It was the language in the injunction that got the most analysis at the Oct. 19 hearing, especially concerning limits on Sunday racing. But Michael Klemens, chairman of the commission, clearly stated both before and at the hearing that the issue of Sunday racing was not in the purview of planning and zoning.
There will be a court conference between the track and the Lime Rock Citizens Council at Litchfield Superior Court on Oct. 30, and attorneys for the track asked the commission to hold off on any decision until after that time. That conference is where the real negotiations will happen, or should happen. When any issue becomes as polarizing in a community as the proposed changes to activity at Lime Rock Park, the path to a just outcome can become less and less apparent or attainable. But fairness and justice should be at the core of any decisions made, whether at court or by the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The decision, when it finally comes, on regulations concerning activities at the track by the commission could become a precedent-setting one for the state, if the members decide to insert the language from the 1959 injunction into the town’s zoning regulations. That is a step that could change the way towns across Connecticut see and handle a range of zoning issues going forward, which puts even more pressure on the members of the commission to consider their next moves carefully.
LIME ROCK — Gathered in Peter Wolf’s living room, on Wednesday, Sept. 16, six members of the Lime Rock Citizens Council (LRCC) expressed their frustrations about Lime Rock Park’s latest plans.
Wolf, his daughter Sarah Wolf, Lisa Keller, Andrea Salvadore, Doug Howes and Stuyvesant Bearns are the steering committee for the LRCC, which was formed in July, after the group became aware that the track was thinking about seeking to modify the court injunction that has governed track activities since 1959.
SALISBURY — Attorney Jim Robertson, speaking at a Planning and Zoning Commission hearing on proposed changes to the regulations concerning Lime Rock Park, mentioned that the track had filed a motion to modify the injunction that governs track activities.
He said that the track was asking for “one Sunday” of racing.
But the motion, filed Sept. 4 in Litchfield Superior Court, asks for a number of changes. Read more...
SALISBURY — At a public hearing of the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) Tuesday, Sept. 8, on proposed changes to the zoning regulations concerning Lime Rock Park, there were too many people for the upstairs meeting room at Town Hall. The hearing was recessed and moved across Main Street to the Congregational Church, where it began in earnest at 7 p.m.
The buzz in the crowd was that the track was trying to get Sunday racing — three days, 10 days, depending on who was talking. Read more...
Thursday, September 10, 2015
SALISBURY — Proposed changes to the zoning regulations dealing with Lime Rock Park provided more heat to an already steamy evening Tuesday, when a large crowd that wanted to attend a Planning and Zoning hearing had to move from Town Hall to the Congregational Church across the street.
The commission has been working for years on amending its regulations, which commission Chairman Michael Klemens outlined at the start of the session. Read More...