An acoustical engineer hired by Osceola County to evaluate the noise variance request from the developer of Orlando Motorsports Park (OMP) said the project's current design doesn't adequately buffer noise from the surrounding neighborhoods, and should be denied.
Senior Zoning Specialist Amy Templeton said the county hired California-based consultant Christopher Jean, specifically because of his expertise in the field. "We chose him because he has 30 years of experience in motor sports," she told GrowthSpotter on Friday.
Jean recommended the county instead approve a noise variance of 65 decibels on most days -- instead of the 90 decibels sought by the developer -- with a limited number of days permitting noise up to 75 decibels.
"Such a variance would help maintain an acceptable community noise environment while still allowing more intensive racing programs to occur over a limited number of weekends throughout the year," he proposed.
The variance request was rescheduled for the Oct. 17 Board of Adjustment meeting. Templeton had tentatively recommended denying the noise variance request but said that recommendation could change based on Jean's report.
Racing enthusiast Andy Bardar has a purchase contract on the 217-acre parcel at the southwest corner of W192 and the S.R. 429 beltway interchange. He is proposing a $100 million complex with a 1.5-mile "fun track" and go-kart track -- both aimed at tourists -- and a longer, private track for club members and corporate events.
Bardar applied for a noise variance for up to 90 decibels during operating hours. His consultants say the 10-foot wall proposed along the western boundary of the club track would limit noise to nearby CLC Encantada Resort to an average of about 65 decibels while the facility is operating at full capacity.
But Jean disputed those findings. In his report, he estimates that nearby residential areas could experience noise averages of up to 85 decibels -- even with the 10-foot sound barrier. Jean based his results on a "worst-case scenario" that would include club racing events involving stock cars, mildly modified and purpose-built racing cars.
He said the sound barrier would need to be at least 20 feet tall to adequately mitigate noise from such activities. That could be accomplished with a berm or a wall constructed of masonry block, stucco, 3/4-inch plywood, tempered glass or poly-carbonate sheeting -- or a combination of those materials.
He also recommended Bardar implement a stringent trackside noise monitoring system similar to one at Sonoma Raceway, a 2.5-mile track in California that routinely hosts NASCAR and IndyCar events.
Bardar told GrowthSpotter that he gave careful consideration to the project plan, including minimizing the potential for sound impact in surrounding areas and properties.
"We've received a copy of Osceola County's sound consultant report, and the team is reviewing," he said. "However, we understand that this is just a report, not an acoustical analysis, as was conducted by our team over a multi-week period to thoroughly understand any potential sound impacts."
Jean noted that even if Bardar's project complied with the county's noise ordinance, it would still be audible to nearby residents and would generate complaints.
"Many residents equate the sound of racing engines and squealing tires with dangerous and irresponsible behavior, even if such activities are performed within a safe environment such as the proposed project," he wrote. "Thus, these same residents may also find racing activities distasteful and will file noise complaints regardless of the noise limits decided upon."
Planner Jim Hall of VHB has said the OMP would not allow professional race cars like the ones Jean described -- even on the club track.
Bardar told the county's Development Review Committee last month that he wanted to work with staff to create an attraction that could co-exist with its neighbors. Still, the county has received nearly 80 letters opposing the variance.
Bardar's attorney, Wayne Rich, said they are open to negotiating some conditions that could make the project more compatible with surrounding properties.
Templeton said county staff has not completed its review of the case.
"We're waiting on the applicant to maybe provide us with changes to his request," she said. "The applicant is aware that as it is now, staff can't approve it. We would want them to attempt to make it more tolerable to the residents, to provide something the residents will not be so bothered by."