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Thread: ATV or motocross track

  1. #1
         
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    ATV or motocross track

    Help!? Does anyone out there have any local regulations (bylaw, ordinance, part of zoning) that specifically prohibit or restrict tracks on private property used for ATV's, dirt bikes, "off-road" trucks, or the like? (regardless of whether part of a business). Several towns in my area have been hit with these things recently and my town is no exception. So far all have ended in court after years of costly litigation and untold hours of dealing with angry neighbors. Given the fact that ATV noise can travel over a mile, these things impact a lot of people. In our case we have a guy who (as another planner had indicated in their case) thinks he's a saint for "providing a safe place for kids to learn how to ride ATV's". He bought an old junkyard several years ago (why the name "ATV Realty Trust" raised no eyebrows is beyond me, it was before my arrival) and cleaned it up, and this spring started moving earth around to make a track. The property is 60 acres total, about 10 used for the track, rest wooded - where he got a forestry permit and cut a lot of trees out, thereby reducing the sound buffer. In one of his less brillant moments he started advertising on the internet that he was going to have races at this track. The calls started pouring in and we were left to figure out how to stop the war. Unfortunately our zoning bylaw gave us little help, we have no noise bylaw, likewise no regulations on moving earth around on your own property. Fortunately there are wetlands on the site and we've gotten our foot in the door with the conservation commission. The use, as advertised, will be an outdoor recreational business or a private club, either of which requires a special permit from the zoning board. But he won't apply since, I assume, he figures he'll get turned down. Anyway it's a "controlled mess" at this stage.

    Meanwhile, we are in the midst of rewriting the zoning bylaw, and I want to address this issue without restricting the language to this particular case or even this particular use. But I can't make it too broad either, as we have a lot of private ATV users and even more snowmobile users here. I consider both to be sort of like beavers - some folks can learn to live with them, and others can't. So, this brings me to my question - anyone have anything on the books now to regulate such uses?

    Thanks, and sorry for being so wordy!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Maybe you can get him with the clean air act? Is MA a maintenance or non-conforming state?

    Unfortuately, I don't know much about point sources, but I do know these are not just noisey buggers, but they spew VOC, NOx, CO and PM2.5 at incredible rates when compared to cars.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  3. #3
         
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    There are a couple of neighbors who are somewhat in the env field and are looking into these questions already, but I haven't heard from them in a couple of weeks so I'm not very hopeful. Right now there is only occasional use of the track, and we think most of that is tresspassers from the neighborhood (gotta love it). If we could catch a lot of ATVs out there at once (which has yet to happen), our police dept would call in the MA Environmental Police and I'll bet they could rack up a few violations in minutes. At this point we're just standing by waiting for the guy to either file the application for the special permit or try running some event, when we'll go shut him down and issue a zoning violation (and call the EP). Second one of those events and we'll haul him off to court, but we're trying to avoid that for obvious reasons.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    We had a motocross track on a private property zoned residential. While there was some discussion that he was charging people, we were unable to approve it. We finally had him close the track because he could not meet the maximum noise regulations at the nearest occupied residential property.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  5. #5
    Don't you have a noise ordinance?
    Furthermore, it would be worthwhile to investigate where he "moved" the earth from the former junkyard, as that land would be considered "contaminated" because it certainly had at least small amounts of gas, oil, antifreeze, tranny fluid, battery acid, etc., etc. and he should have had to move that ground to a specified place. I'm sure the EPA would like to have that info too.
    Who's gonna re-invent the wheel today?

  6. #6
    Typically, as long he's not charging people (home business in a residential zone), and regardless of how much noise he is making, most states allow you to make as much noise as you want between certain hours (7am-10pm).

    Also, because it is private property, you are allowed to drive, ride, or off-road without worrying about law enforcement issues.

    I've seen this come up alot in rural residential neighborhoods, and the only recourse that I have seen to be effective is dust (code complaint) and fire danger (weeds and hot motors, not a good mix).

    Check your local noise ordinances......
    Forechecking is overrated.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by CCMNUT39
    Typically, as long he's not charging people (home business in a residential zone), and regardless of how much noise he is making, most states allow you to make as much noise as you want between certain hours (7am-10pm).

    Check your local noise ordinances......
    Really? Utah has state and local laws regarding how much noise can be heard at a property line that applies 24 hours a day. It does get more restrictive during the night time hours. I could see some very rural counties having lax noise ordiannces, but residnetial areas should have a max decibel level that can be heard at the property line.

  8. #8
    Our local law is a set dB at a set distance from the source of noise. I don't know if it varies time-of-day.
    Who's gonna re-invent the wheel today?

  9. #9
    Quote Originally posted by cololi
    Really? Utah has state and local laws regarding how much noise can be heard at a property line that applies 24 hours a day. It does get more restrictive during the night time hours. I could see some very rural counties having lax noise ordiannces, but residnetial areas should have a max decibel level that can be heard at the property line.
    But is that within City limits or in a rural setting? Depends on the location......if it's County, those dB limits are not going to fly (Ag uses comes to mind), where within the City, db limits are "manageable."
    Forechecking is overrated.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by CCMNUT39
    But is that within City limits or in a rural setting? Depends on the location......if it's County, those dB limits are not going to fly (Ag uses comes to mind), where within the City, db limits are "manageable."
    UT may be unique in that the County Health Dept's have jurisdiction even in incorporated cities. In the more urban counties, they are pretty similar and enforced by the County within the city limits. I do not know how the more rural areas manage the relationship. My guess is that they do not have a noise ordinance or if they do, it is structured to account for the location.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Meh. A bunch of NIMBY whiners if you ask me. If you're out in the country enough that you've got room for an off-road track, your neighbors should lump it. Besides, if the alternatives are worse (feed lot or chicken house anyone?), just live with it.

    Of course, I will draw the line between someone doing it for their friends & family (ok), and a commercial enterprise. The family thing should be unregulated, the commercial one subject to the same commercial regualtions as everything else.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    This is an ongoing issue in my neck of the woods. Our ordinance only regulated tracks if they were like a business, charging admission. For that they would need a special use permit in AG zoning. But, a lot of people ride for fun around their AG property and it was never an issue, until people started moving dirt to make jumps. Then when residential subdivisions keep getting approved right next to these AG properties, the real trouble begins and the NIMBYs come out. By the way, we have no noise ordinance.

    We had a guy buy 6 AG zoned acres, with the sole intention of training his boys to be motocross stars. Neighboring homes, zoned residential, would end up with dust literally coating their decks, and they couldn't enjoy their own property. So, the brilliant county board decided that any track had to be on AG, plus had to be at least 500 feet from all property lines. Because of this guy's narrow lot, it pretty much caused his track to close down, but not without a fight and the whole deal is still in litigation.

    Then in another part of the county some new condos where built right across the street from AG lots, one of which had an ATV track on it for years. The son of that household is actually a professional ATV stunt guy, traveling around and doing shows, and he grew up practicing there on his family's rural property. Well, the new condo dwellers complained about the noise. They had room to meet the 500 foot setback, but the county board went and changed the rules again, saying all tracks, even for personal use, have to have a special use permit, and then they conditioned their permit so it can only be used during certain hours, which are hours the son isn't free to ride anyway because of his day job.

    All of this happened after I was no longer working for that county, but I kept up with the news... and I took a few lessons away from it: Someone needs to define a track.. is it whenever there are jumps, or what. Someone needs to make sure the county isn't overstepping their right to control personal uses of private property. (at the same time a neighbor complained about his neighbors half-pipe, that a kid built, because it was unsightly.. we didn't do anything about it, but what's next... restricting swing sets!) Most importantly, though... the county board shoudn't keep approving rural subdivisions!

  13. #13
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ssnyderjr
    Don't you have a noise ordinance?
    Furthermore, it would be worthwhile to investigate where he "moved" the earth from the former junkyard, as that land would be considered "contaminated" because it certainly had at least small amounts of gas, oil, antifreeze, tranny fluid, battery acid, etc., etc. and he should have had to move that ground to a specified place. I'm sure the EPA would like to have that info too.
    I'm glad I read the responses first this time, since I would say the same thing that ssnyderjr wrote. Seems like a former junkyard is a bad place to be kicking up dirt unless they did some serious remediation!

    And the noise ordinance is probably the easiest way to go to control a problem like this.

    What you haven't stated yet though is, what is the property zoned and how close is it to residences? One option may be to control them like SOBs... put them in industrial-ish areas with a specified minimum radius to residential areas.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by cch
    Most importantly, though... the county board shoudn't keep approving rural subdivisions!
    Here's the important part. Limit development in the AG areas, and problem solved.

    If you move out into the country, expect the rural uses.

  15. #15
         
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    Spencerplanner back (after a long and interesting day on another hot issue in town):

    We have no noise ordinance, all we can do is fall back on the state general law regarding too loud at night, which is no help since at this point all activity is daytime.

    The junkyard was cleaned up and passed final inspections with the state DEP. All the earth movement was within the area of the old yard.

    The property is zoned "R-45" which is our rural residential district, min lot size for a sf is 45,000 sf. Setbacks are minimal.

    The track is situated on the property well over the 100 feet from lot lines he'd be required if he's a business use. The entire area between the track and any abutting property is wooded, although in one area it is thinner than in most areas.

    In our state, AG uses are exempt from zoning as long as the parcel is 5 acres or more. This one is 60.

    There are a few dozen houses along the road near the track entrance, but the noise of course travels well beyond that area. The area of impact extends to over a mile from the site, based on who is commenting/yelling about it. Dust would only affect one or possibly two owners, both of whom have alledgedly tresspassed onto this property to use thier ATV's for years. Some folks are telling us the dust will have a serious detrimental impact on the wetlands on site - none of which have standing water at any time of the year, and all of which are wooded - so I'm not buying that argument.

    The bottom line is the noise is the deterrent in this thing, and it is the thing that will be impossible to mitigate and will eventually kill the project. But without a noise ordinance, which for some reason the town is dead set against enacting (and I should point out that here it's the registered voters of the entire town who decide on all bylaws or ordinances, not just a city council or whatever - I'm envious of you sometimes) it has to rest with the ZBA to make the final decision within the confines of deliberations on a special permit application. Of course, the ZBA won't be making the decision if the guy never applies.

    Thanks for your comments, folks... they will help me as I continue to address this issue. Keep them coming too - I suspect this is an increasing problem across the country and we can all learn from each other.

  16. #16
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    This is a familiar issue in our rural town. Plenty of undeveloped land for ATV, motocross and even 4x4 trucks to use. This is a hot topic in town several times a year.
    You say that in your state, AG uses are exempt from zoning. In our town, ATV or any other motorized recreational use would not fall under any AG use. As long as the land was residential zoned only, anyone using the property for motorized recreation would be stopped by the zoning enforcement authority (the Building Inspector her). This would happen without the property owner even applying for a special permit. If a SP was applied for, then deliberation on granting it would occur. Does your town consider the motorized recreational use an AG use? If not, then it seems you would be able to enforce based on standard zoning laws.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    This thread is disturbing.

    Instead of trying to find a way to get rid of a land use which is obvioulsy in high demand in your area, and a land use a little out of the norm...why not work with both sides to come up with an amicable agreement?

    Would the locals prefer that people just drag raced these things at all hours of the day/nite down the middle of the street? Or perhaps during some mutually agreeable hours.

    The police powers exist to provide for all land uses, in a way that can benefit all members of a society, not to restrict some less desirable uses "just beacuse we dont like them."


    This is the same thing as peeps who move out into the country, then complain about the smell of manure. Deal with it.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    If it's a 60 acre lot, why is it even annexed into your city then? Where else are people supposed to ride their 4 wheelers, snowmobiles, and dirtbikes? If they cannot do it out in the country on their own property, where can they? People in the country live for this stuff. I grew up knowing a friend who had a dirtbike and we would ride all over his 5!-acre lot all the time.

    Sure, there are safety concerns, noise concerns, and environmental concerns, and maybe some of those issues should be addressed and compromises be made....but WITHOUT outlawing outdoor fun on motorized vehicles altogehter.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    [QUOTE=illinoisplanner]If it's a 60 acre lot, why is it even annexed into your city then? Where else are people supposed to ride their 4 wheelers, snowmobiles, and dirtbikes? If they cannot do it out in the country on their own property, where can they? [QUOTE]

    Here's a novel idea? Why do they buy those things when they don't have any property to ride them on, and then decry local government for not providing a place for it? Do horse people do that? (well, yeah, some...). There should be NO provision for that crap where anybody, anybody at all, can hear it. I lived for years next to the most-used forest ATV site in FL and let me tell you, it was sooooo frickin' noisy.

    ATV users and BMX users have a weird sense of entitlement like hunters. We don't own any land, but by God, the gov'mint better provide for us. Horse-****.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    [QUOTE=Zoning Goddess][QUOTE=illinoisplanner]If it's a 60 acre lot, why is it even annexed into your city then? Where else are people supposed to ride their 4 wheelers, snowmobiles, and dirtbikes? If they cannot do it out in the country on their own property, where can they?

    Here's a novel idea? Why do they buy those things when they don't have any property to ride them on, and then decry local government for not providing a place for it? Do horse people do that? (well, yeah, some...). There should be NO provision for that crap where anybody, anybody at all, can hear it. I lived for years next to the most-used forest ATV site in FL and let me tell you, it was sooooo frickin' noisy.

    ATV users and BMX users have a weird sense of entitlement like hunters. We don't own any land, but by God, the gov'mint better provide for us. Horse-****.
    I'm not saying the government should provide land for these uses. I

    I'm saying that they should allow the people to use their own land for these uses if they want, especially when we're talking tracts of 60 acres here. And if these people want to invite others to make use of their large land space, then they should be able to.

    However, I think a compromise should be made so it doesn't turn into a business, turn into an all-hours affair, or creates a significant safety hazard.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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  21. #21
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Zoning Goddess
    Here's a novel idea? Why do they buy those things when they don't have any property to ride them on, and then decry local government for not providing a place for it? Do horse people do that? (well, yeah, some...). There should be NO provision for that crap where anybody, anybody at all, can hear it. I lived for years next to the most-used forest ATV site in FL and let me tell you, it was sooooo frickin' noisy.

    ATV users and BMX users have a weird sense of entitlement like hunters. We don't own any land, but by God, the gov'mint better provide for us. Horse-****.

    Do you own a car?

    Nowhere in this thread is there a mention of the gummint providing anything for these people either. This is all about private land, in an area that didnt have the forsight to "plan" for such a use. This is typical "knee-jerk" planning....Oh Sh*t...something snuck through our Zoning Ordinance that we never thought of...instead of eating crow with the community, they are trying to prevent this use after the fact.


    Afterthought....I'm thinking of the project I'm working on right now...~55 acres. This tract we are talking about is 60! I have 110 houses, and a community center on 55 acres....If you cant ride a dirt bike on 60, where can you? This isn't about some guy with a 1/4 acre lot holding races in his backyard....this is 60 acres, 60 wooded acres...0.1 square miles!
    Last edited by Jeff; 09 Aug 2006 at 10:23 AM.

  22. #22
         
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    Interesting to see this back in the limelight... We (town gvt) are in favor of compromise, but the abutters - and there are at least a hundred; anyone within earshot of the thing has become an "abutter" - don't want any activity at all. I'm currently doing battle with several of these "abutters" who think we should prohibit all activity on the site, regardless of who is doing the riding.

    The property owner has at this point given up on holding races on the site, but he continues to use it for his own personal use. We receive daily and sometimes hourly reports from the "abutters" on use, and its always 4 people (4 atvs/dirt bikes). We cannot and will not prohibit a property owner from riding his dirt bike or atv - or horse - around his own property, regardless of the size of the parcel.

    We will, however, draw the line at operating the track as a business or as part of a business, for several reasons. 1) while this guy has 60 acres, all the other parcels in the area are 3/4 to 3 acres in size, 90% with houses; 2) the roads leading to this area are typical New England country roads - narrow, windy, hilly, and lined with lots of trees; and 3) - most important - there is no way to mitigate the noise that would be produced by several dozen atvs going around in circles for hours at a time. IF the track itself was in the center of the 60 acres (it's in one corner) and all the trees were still there (property owner thinned the forest this year), and the ZBA required some sort of solid wall with evergreen plantings to create a sound "channeler/absorber/barrier", and the site had better roads leading to it, THEN we might have had a chance to allow the use in a way that would not have been too much of a detriment to the area. But that can't happen, so the guy is stuck. Our biggest problem now is dealing with the "abutters" who think that their God given right is to a perfectly quiet neighborhood. Where they get that idea I don't know - why do any po'd abutters get any of the absurd ideas they come up with?

    BTW, we're adding some language to the zoning bylaw that will prohibit motorized sports facilities (would cover competitive or non-competitive), but it will not make this thing go away - the guy can still use his own private property to ride his atvs.

    Afterthought: 15 years ago my guess is nobody would have batted an eye about this use in this location. Reality is that communities change - we all know that, we're supposed to be guiding that change - and as housing prices closer to the cities continue to be above the levels that 80% of the people in this or any other state can afford, our town and all of those around us will continue to change. Like it or not, these formerly quaint farmland towns are becoming - gasp! - outter fringe suburbs. Get used to it.

  23. #23

    noise

    But that can't happen, so the guy is stuck. Our biggest problem now is dealing with the "abutters" who think that their God given right is to a perfectly quiet neighborhood. Where they get that idea I don't know - why do any po'd abutters get any of the absurd ideas they come up with?

    thank you for taken away my god given right of a quiet rural neighborhood! what gives you the right to take that away from me?

    you are empowered by DEP (310 CMR 7.52) to take enforcement acrtion against violators of DEPs noise ordor and dust regs. ( 310 cmr 7.09-7.10)
    1. nuisance conditions unreasonably interfere with the enjoyment of residental property and /or the operations of a business and/or ....................

    act on it if not why not?????????????????????????????????

  24. #24
         
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    I sincerely apologize to all whom I have offended by my comments posted on this site; I acted rashly and will refrain from doing so again.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian permaplanjuneau's avatar
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    All that discussion, and nobody answered the original question...

    Our land use code allows "automobile and motorcycle racing tracks" (which would presumably include such facilities for ATVs) in our Rural Reserve, General Commercial, and Industrial zoning districts only, and then only with a Conditional Use permit.

    People can ride their motorized vehicles around on their own property, and we have designated trails and areas where snowmobiles and other such machines can be driven on public land (and areas where they are prohibited as well).

    Our current struggle on this issue is centered on use of jet skis on a lake bordered by residences on one side and public park land on the other. The lake is State-managed, so we don't have jurisdiction over the uses on the lake, but our noise ordinance could conceivably come into play, but as with most noise ordinances, it only kicks into effect at night, when nobody is out on the lake anyway.

    The neighborhood organization, state, and motorized-use advocacy group just came up with a new agreement with buffer zones etc., but the problem came up because the original buffer zones were barely posted, so nobody knew about them anyway (you had to read an 8.5" x 11" sign at the put-in, and then notice the two unmarked bouys that marked the boundary for motorized use out on the lake). Hopefully they'll make the sign bigger and mark the boundary better as well, otherwise nothing will change.

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