CLAREMONT — The Claremont Planning Commission identified traffic safety as their principal concern about a proposed plan to build a seasonal campground at the Claremont Motorsports Park.
Ben Bosowki, new owner of Motorsports Park (formerly known as Claremont Speedway) on Thrasher Road, met with the Planning Commission last night for a preliminary site plan discussion. Accompanying Bosowski was his attorney John Arnold of Hinckley Allen and engineer Jeff Lewis of Northpoint Engineering.
Bosowski and co-owner Norman Wrenn seek to build a 149-site campground tailored to recreational vehicles (RVs), to accomodate racing teams during the racing season, as well as the general public. The RVs would have to remain on site for the duration of the season — from spring through fall — for residing when participating in track events. The campground would include a swimming pool, a recreation hall and two comfort stations.
The previous track owner, Jim Ambrose, initially pursued this campground project after purchasing the speedway in 2014, but issues including personal health and cost overrun forced Ambrose to sell the speedway before submitting a final plan to the commission.
Ambrose did obtain a variance for the campground from the Claremont Zoning Board in Oct. 2016, and received a one-year extension for the variance in 2018. On Monday, October 7, the Zoning Board authorized another one-year extension to Bosowski. Bosowski said that he only acquired the racetrack in late February and was busy attending to the current race season, but hopes to submit a plan for the campground to the commission in spring or summer 2020.
The purpose of the preliminary meeting was for Bosowski to receive questions from the commission and for residents abutting the property to address in his project plan.
“The fact [is the owners] are new to the city, and this project has been dormant for a couple of years. We wanted a preliminary discussion to get feedback from the planning board and the public,” Arnold said to the board. “We will take all that information and go through the process more formally.”
Traffic safety remains top concern
Using data from the 2016 project proposal, the campground estimates to bring over 200 vehicles to the track per day for events, increasing current traffic by about 73 new vehicles to and from the track. The peak of traffic would be between 6 and 7 p.m.
According to Lewis, Bosowski and Wrenn plan to meet agreements in the 2016 proposal, including the addition of advance warning signs and line markings on Thrasher Road and a streetlight at the entrance to the campground. Lewis said that the owners would assume the cost for those amendments.
Several planning board members suggested that more signage and a traffic study may be necessary.
“Our number one concern is safety when walking and driving on that road,” said board member David Putnam.
Putnam said that traffic tends to drive fast on Thrasher Road, a condition which becomes even more dangerous when adding RVs to the traffic. Making turns in intersections, as well as the campground entrance, could be difficult for large RVs.
“My concern is not about once they’re on the campground, but getting their vehicles there and making sure everyone is safe,” Putnam said.
The planning board recommended the plan consider adding speed limit signs and possibly a new traffic signal at the intersection of Thrasher Road and Route 120, where traffic analysis indicates will see a large influx of traffic.
Resident Rebecca Ford, a neighbor abutting the traffic, said that she sees a large flow of traffic to Thrasher from Elm Street and that painting lines on the road will be essential. Many vehicles cannot see traffic coming over the hill on Elm Street near the intersection, and drivers have a tendency to drive too far to the other side. Recently, a truck crashed into the side of a vehicle heading the other way at that spot, because neither driver saw the other coming.
“There were two collisions right where they want to put in the driveway,” Ford said. “The road is the problem. People overdrive it. The lights and lines only work if people follow the rules.”
Another issue is the fast-growing foliage along the roads that impair visibility. Though the owners said they would agree to maintain roadside growth, Ford said the foliage will need to be cut back about four to five times per year.
“If you don’t keep it cut back, you can’t see around corners, and you can’t see driveways,” Ford said.