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Council discusses speedway’s noise reduction efforts

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In this file photo, a vehicle rounds a turn during racing action at Alien Motor Speedway in Roswell on June 27, 2020. (David Rocha Photo)

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Several city councilors expressed appreciation for the work between the city and the Alien Motor Speedway to mitigate neighborhood complaints about noise, but two others still had concerns.

Kevin Maevers, the city’s community development director, gave an update on the speedway at Thursday night’s meeting of the Roswell City Council that turned into a 45-minute discussion. The presentation was for information only and no action was taken.

Maevers gave background on the issue, dating back to August 2016 when the city issued a conditional use permit for the speedway, which just began its second season of racing last month. In the four years before its first season started in June of last year, the speedway owners conducted cleanup and construction at the site on the city’s southeast side.

“The 2020 racing season was considered an absolute success by those in the racing community, the sponsors that were out there, the racing fans and most importantly, the racing teams themselves,” Maevers said.

However, there were also concerns raised about track noise and events continuing until late at night, he said.

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Prior to the speedway’s first race this year in March, a petition with 169 signatures was presented to the city, asking for the track to be closed until noise buffers could be put in place. No action was taken on that petition by either the City Council or the Planning and Zoning Commission.

On March 19, the city’s Community Development staff issued a 60-day conditional and temporary certificate of occupation to the speedway that included specific guidelines and mitigation measures, Maevers said.

“The planning commission made it very clear that we had to address the issue of noise and late-night events immediately. There was to be no delay in what we had to do,” he said.

Those included requiring the race cars to have mufflers that would reduce noise to 100 decibels or less when measured 100 feet from the tailpipe. Races were to be scheduled to end by 10 p.m. but could go to 11 p.m. if there were unforeseen incidents such as a crash or bad weather. The final measure was to log all start and end times of all racing heats.

Maevers said the speedway has complied with each of those measures in the three races it has conducted so far this year.

“For the inaugural event for the 2021 season, every single car out there racing ran on a muffler. Noise was reduced dramatically,” he said.

He said there have been no noise complaints about the speedway from the surrounding neighborhoods this season.

Councilor Margaret Kennard, who said she lives 8 miles from the speedway, agreed the measures have worked. She said she could hear noise from the races last year but has not heard it this year.

Councilors Juan Oropesa and George Peterson, both of whom represent wards on the city’s south side, expressed continued concerns about the noise.

Peterson said he didn’t have a problem with the races themselves, but the lateness of them.

“I think 11 o’clock is way too late,” Peterson said. “They could end up at 9 p.m. and be fine and that would keep the neighbors satisfied.”

Oropesa said he witnessed a band playing inside the speedway after 11 p.m. over Easter weekend. Maevers said police did investigate a noise complaint at that time but determined it was from an unrelated event nearby on Hoagland Street.

Other measures are to be implemented by the speedway in the next 60 days. Those include having a series of noise studies conducted by a certified noise mitigation engineer to evaluate the effects on surrounding neighborhoods, creating a plan to pave parking areas to reduce dust, and creating a formal security plan to ensure only authorized personnel are on the track.

The speedway will also be required to have a formal community outreach and engagement plan in the next 60 days, Maevers said. He said in his investigation, he found that those in the area who complained had not been informed of when the speedway would have events.

“They didn’t necessarily know that was going to be an event, they didn’t know when it was going to begin, when it was going to end and how it was going to be operated,” he said.

If the speedway complies with all the measures, the temporary occupancy certificate could be extended through this summer, Maevers said.

Kennard and Councilor Jeanine Best questioned why the city is only giving temporary certificates when the speedway’s owners have apparently invested so much money in the last five years.

They, along with Councilor Jacob Roebuck, praised the speedway for the steps the speedway has taken to mitigate the noise and for bringing a new business and visitors to town.

“We certainly need all the businesses we can get and certainly we would like to have more entertainment in this town,” Roebuck said.

“We need to give them a full permit and let them run, and stop this every-six-months permit,” Best said.

“The only reason they don’t have a full occupancy permit is there is some other work that needs to get done,” City Manager Joe Neeb said.

“We’ve been working with them to extend that out. Those are the only things I will say. We will try to work together to make this work as best as possible for the neighborhood as well as the city and the business,” he said.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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