There is no doubt that Monticello’s upscale, private racing club has an impressive history in the county. Investing some $40 million in the facility, and creating 60 jobs, the Monticello Motor Club (MMC), which serves wealthy client s, has gained a national and international reputation in racing circles in a few short years.
Now the club would like to expand at a cost of about $42 million over 10 years, and add three professional races each year to the schedule. The plan also calls for the addition of 70 condominiums, a new clubhouse and other amenities.
But the community surrounding the facility is divided about whether or not the club is a good neighbor. At a planning board public hearing regarding the expansion on February 13, more than 120 people turned out, and spoke both for and against the plan.
Predictably, some neighbors complained about noise. A sound study was performed last year, and it determined that there were a few nearby homes that would benefit from the construction of sound barriers at an estimated cost of about $1.2 million. Some residents have asked the planning board to include sound barriers as a condition of the permit modification being sought.
Ari Strauss, president of the club, has questioned whether so much money could be put to better use in creating facilities that will attract more members, and thus be more of an economic boost to the surrounding area.
The sound study also found that the noise generated by the MMC is no more than noise generated by an airport, which is what the facility was in the past. But neighbor Ann Culligan, a long-time vocal critic of the club, dismissed the study as biased. She said it was not done on a real day of racing, and it examined the sound impacts of a limited number of cars, which was determined by Straus.
The noise issue was raised by several members of the neighborhood, including Neal Avery who said he lives about 300 yards from the track. He said “In the summer, when the weather is hot, the wind is blowing toward my house I can smell the rubber from the tires of those cars sitting on my deck. Other times, you’ve got the television on, the windows closed, the air conditioning on, and you can still hear those cars.”
On the other side of the issue was neighbor Jamie Ferriero, who said MMC has been very helpful to the neighborhood, and the club’s members have been good for businesses in the area. She described the noise in her house as a slight hum, and said it didn’t bother her at all. She said, “If you’re going to sit up and listen to it, it might bother you; but get on with your life, there are other noises out there, and it does not bother me.”
Local officials have mostly expressed support for the club. Roberta Byron-Lockwood, president and CEO of the Sullivan County Visitors Association said it has become an important tourist destination in the county and she supported the club’s expansion.
The planning board is expected to make a decision on the project within the next few weeks.