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'All I want is three quiet weekends': Neighbors grumble at Lancaster Speedway noise

People living near Lancaster Speedway for years have griped about the loud noise from racing cars that would disrupt their summer night dreams.

Many of them live on Genesee Street – separated from the speedway by the New York State Thruway – about one to two miles away. Some spend their nights indoors with windows closed to block the sound.

"It's not a pleasant sound. It's an explosive sound. It's an ugly loud motor sound like a jet car. I thought a jet aircraft crashed somewhere close," said Jean Suess, who lives in the 6000 block of Genesee. "You can't sit in the evening with your windows open.

"I've had 59 years of it. The racetrack opened the year we moved in our new house that is three houses away from where I grew up."

Built in 1959 in the heart of rolling farm country, the original speedway featured a dirt oval that has since been paved, repaved and enlarged several times. The land around the facility, meanwhile, grew more populated as it changed from agrarian to residential subdivision.

Timothy R. Packman took the job as speedway president in 2015. Since then the facility has seen more than $500,000 in improvements. Packman, 53, devoted much of his career to NASCAR.

He earned the respect of racing fans and town officials recently when he took immediate action by dropping the popular Cruise Night from Wednesday's lineup after several incidents of fan misconduct resulted in a brawl and property damage.

Packman explained track policy when events run past midnight and violate the town noise ordinance.

"We call the police if we go past midnight, which last season only occurred twice," said Packman. "Rain delays required the events to go over. The first time it went to 12:18 a.m. The second one came after a 12-minute downpour and it caused a two-hour delay. We ended at 12:42 a.m. because we had to dry the track for safety concerns."

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Town Code Ordinance 38 section 7(d) exempts the sound created by sporting events from the 11 p.m. limit that governs many other events. Other exempt events include carnivals, fairs, exhibitions, picnics and parades.

"Noise is something that's grown over the years, and it's gone later and later," said David Chiarolanza, 72, a retired attorney who lives on Genesee. "We've lived here since 1980. The speedway has been out here a long time and they have a right to operate."

The Hull House, built in 1810, is located at what is now 5962 Genesee. It is a restored Victorian homestead listed by the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. Located one-eighth mile from the speedway, the Hull House is Erie County's oldest surviving stone structure.

"I don't harbor any animosity," said Gary Costello, president of the Hull House Foundation. "I understand it’s a big draw and a lot of fun, but it runs from May to September with rain dates sometimes pushing into October."

"They just have so many events. My only issue is the noise. If only there was some way to modify the level of noise, maybe with a sound barrier. All I want is three quiet weekends in the summer," said Costello.

"I don’t understand how an enterprise can disrupt so many people's lives," said Costello.  "We only do three events each summer. I don't think anyone is trying to prevent them from running."

A public hearing held at Lancaster Town Hall in late May drew up to 20 concerned residents who live near the speedway. The hearing was called because the speedway needs a zoning variance to operate, said Matthew Fischione, supervising code enforcement officer for Lancaster who lives not far from the speedway.

The speedway is dark on Monday and operates Tuesday through Sunday, with three Thursday events planned.

"He's operating a business, and he's doing the right things," Fischione said about Packman. "Nothing here is intending to close this business. The speedway was here when I moved in and it's here to stay. We deal with it."

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