The town is again investigating whether the Albany-Saratoga Speedway is violating the town zoning law by increasing the number of auto and go-kart racing events it is holding this season.
The investigation was launched after the town code enforcement officer received three written complaints from residents within the last two weeks, said Tony Tozzi, the town’s building and planning director.
“We will do a thorough investigation of the complaints,” Tozzi told the Town Board at its agenda meeting Monday night.
The board also heard three residents speak against the track’s expanded nights of operation, and three people speak in defense of the track.
The track on Route 9 has been the focus of noise or dust complaints for decades, but town officials have generally found there was nothing they could do to stop racing from occurring, because the track has been operating since the mid-1960s, before the town had any zoning code — meaning it is “grandfathered,” or exempt from zoning.
The question now is whether the track could be charged with a zoning violation because events are occurring more often than in the past, on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Most of the time in the past, racing has only been on Friday nights.
The track operates seasonally, from May through October.
The track’s website now features auto racing on Fridays and go-kart racing on Thursdays, with a few events schedule for Saturdays and Sundays. But neighbors said there is sometimes practice on non-racing days.
Cassandra Dooley, who lives next to the track, complained about the expanded days of racing and also about a stunt-pilot air performance two weeks ago that she said was too dangerous to have been performed over a residential area.
“We have one business controlling the peace of the neighborhood. I really have to stress that something has to come about so that there’s peace of mind for everyone,” Dooley said.
Carol Luse of Round Lake defended the track, noting it has operated for more than 40 years, and most of the residential areas around it have developed since then.
“For people who just moved into town, I understand the inconvenience, but it goes with the territory,” she said.
Before deciding whether a violation may be occurring, Tozzi said he plans to consult with the state Department of State, New York State Association of Towns and other legal experts.
Last year, a preliminary investigation was done because of similar expanded-use complaints, but the track wasn’t cited, and at about the same time the track owner scaled back some of his expanded racing plans.
“The message I got then from the Department of State was that private property rights in New York State are pretty strong, that grandfathered rights are pretty strong,” Tozzi said of his findings at that time.
Town Attorney Tom Peterson cautioned the Town Board that it can’t tell the code enforcement officer — who works in Tozzi’s department — what conclusions to draw.
“The board doesn’t really have a role. It’s up to the code enforcement officer to hear the complaint, investigate and make a determination,” he said.
Tozzi said the investigation should be completed quite quickly, but he didn’t provide a timeframe.