Depending on wind conditions, a proposed auto racetrack could bombard Havre de Grace residents with noise, ranging from moderate to severe, an Aberdeen Proving Ground sound expert says.
Under windless conditions on racing days, Georges R. Garinther, an acoustics research engineer, says Havre de Grace would be exposed to "moderate" noise annoyance from racetrack noise and that communities nearer the track would be exposed to "excessive" annoyance.
Under downwind conditions -- which occur about 15 percent of the time -- the southeastern portion of Havre de Grace would be exposed to "excessive" annoyance and the southwestern portion would be exposed to "severe" annoyance, Mr. Garinther said.
Nearby communities such as Grace Harbour and Glenn Heights would be exposed to severe annoyance during these conditions, and residents in parts of Aberdeen would be exposed to "excessive" noise levels.
Mr. Garinther described "moderate annoyance" as intruding noise that causes people concern, "excessive annoyance" as noise that causes organized reactions against it and "severe annoyance" as noise that causes major reactions and possible lawsuits.
Mr. Garinther presented his findings Monday in an 18-page report to a task force that is studying the racetrack and its potential effects on the community. He had been commissioned by the group to compile noise study.
At issue is a proposed $10 million multipurpose motor sports complex, which would be located about 1 1/2 miles from downtown Havre de Grace. The complex would include a 2.5-mile road course designed to specifications suited to everything from vintage cars to Indy, stock and Formula One race cars, plus an amphitheater for music festivals and picnic areas. Events are expected to draw up to 40,000 visitors to the 550 acres off U.S. 40.
Mr. Garinther's study was based on noise measurements at a raceway in Summit Point, W.Va., where a vintage car race was held Oct. 1 and 2. Race cars at that track included Corvettes, Jaguar XKEs, Porsche 911Ls, Camaro Z-28s and Mustangs.
Those are cars that could run in racing events at the Havre de Grace racetrack, said design engineer Jim Tevebaugh, who is working with D. Richard Rothman, a developer of the racetrack project in Havre de Grace. Mr. Tevebaugh, who had not reviewed Mr. Garinther's noise report, said the racetrack's developers are preparing their own studies by independent consultants on sound, as well as the impact of the proposed track on such issues as traffic, environment and the local economy.
"We're not sure what the forum is going to be," Mr. Tevebaugh said about presenting the developers' reports. "We do not want to go out and start debating and arguing. . . . We will put it all together in one businesslike presentation."
"It's disappointing if he [Mr. Rothman] has good information and won't share it with us," said task force member Ronald Hendricksen.
Mr. Rothman has an option to buy the property, which is zoned industrial-residential and agricultural. The developers want Havre de Grace to annex the tract so local zoning can be amended to accommodate the racetrack.
Havre de Grace Mayor Gunther Hirsch appointed the 14-member task force last summer to make a recommendation to the Havre de Grace City Council on the proposed racetrack. The final report is expected within a couple of months.
"We need a lot more information before we can make up our minds for or against the racetrack," Dr. Hirsch said.
If the council decides in favor of annexing the land, Harford County Council action on a waiver for a zoning change also will be required.
"We're faced with a highly technical report," Dr. Hirsch said of the noise study. "You can't go by one type of report. . . . The question is, 'Is this the whole findings or are there other findings?' " he said.
"The noise profile is very complicated," agreed Mr. Hendricksen. But, he added, "I thought the report gave a rather detailed and in-depth view of the noise that might be anticipated by the residents of the surrounding properties and track site.
"I was surprised at the magnitude of the noise level, that it was as severe as it was."
Mr. Garinther's sound report also concluded that:
* Raceway noise would exceed a Maryland regulation that limits noise to 65 decibels at a property line. But sanctioned auto racing facilities are exempt from this regulation.
* The average noise level of the race cars analyzed ranged from 109.8 decibels to 112.8 decibels.
* Barriers do not reduce the noise of raceways as effectively as they reduce the noise of interstate highways.
* Shrubs and trees provide a minimal impact on noise. While foliage will change the character of the noise from race cars, it will not change the distance at which they can be heard.
Dr. Hirsch said the report "does not take into account the frequency of events."
The proposed racetrack would be used for racing events about 21 days a year, according to the developers. The park would be unoccupied 209 days, they say.
The remaining time would be filled with such activities as professional driving schools, car club races, community events and a three-day bluegrass festival, Mr. Tevebaugh said.