Ivor dirt track back on planners’ agenda

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 12, 2008

COURTLAND—Five years ago, when Tony and Victoria Scodes withdrew their request for permission to build and operate a dirt track near Ivor for motorcycles and ATVs, neighbors briefly thought they had won.

By law, the Scodes’ withdrawal of rezoning and conditional use permit applications meant they could not seek similar permits—much less build or operate a track on their 238-acre New Road property—for at least a year.

Within a month, though, the Scodes had begun work on a track, ignoring the county’s zoning regulations and its Erosion and Sediment Control Ordinance.

That action kicked off a cycle of court appearances and zoning applications that comes full circle (again) Thursday, when the Southampton Planning Commission will hear public comment on Anthony Scodes’ latest effort to rezone the property and secure a conditional use permit to allow the dirt track there.

Tony Scodes’ rezoning effort comes on the heels of a March contempt of court decree that stemmed from the continued operation of the track in breach of a consent decree he and Victoria Scodes signed more than five years ago.

In that court-brokered February 2003 agreement, the Scodes admitted that they had used heavy earth-moving equipment to build a race track on their property, that they had operated &uot;a race track suitable for motorcycle or other racing&uot; there and that they had done both without submitting an erosion and sediment control plan, paying the necessary fees or posting the required bond associated with such a plan.

Under the terms of that consent decree, the Scodes agreed to &uot;terminate the construction activities and the operation of a racetrack and/or motorcycle racetrack on our property until such time as we have the property re-zoned to Industrial District (M-1) and a Conditional Use Permit is issued permitting a racetrack and/or motorcycle racetrack on our property,&uot; according to a letter they submitted to the county at the time.

When they applied again for the proper zoning and conditional use permit in August 2003, the Scodes encountered unanimous opposition from both the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.

But that wasn’t the end for Mr. T’s Hunt Club, as the track is known on the Internet.

An online discussion forum at the Tidewater Dirt Riders site indicates the track was in use as a commercial venture in 2006. &uot;Jay&uot; wrote on Dec. 29, 2006, that the cost to ride there all day was $15; another poster wrote that there were two motocross tracks, &uot;plus some trails in the woods, a nice looking picnic area too.&uot;

Discussion on another Internet site, ThumperTalk.com, reached a feverish pitch last November, when police executed a search warrant on the Scodeses after receiving &uot;numerous complaints from subjects living in the vicinity of the … property in reference to the noise being made from dirt bikes and four-wheelers riding on the property.&uot;

Officers responding to the surrounding location verified those complaints, and an undercover officer was sent to the property in September.

&uot;The officer entered the property and was met by a subject, who explained that a fee of $20 was required to ride all day and a waiver form had to be signed,&uot; according to an affidavit filed in support of the police request for a search warrant.

&uot;During the conversation, this subject relayed to the officer that a track had been added for kids learning to ride and their [sic] had been several improvements added recently, to include more jumps.&uot;

Police observed and photographed dirt bikes and ATVs on the track, along with the jumps and banks &uot;that were not part of the natural terrain.&uot;

The evidence they gathered—including the photographs and signed and unsigned waiver forms—was turned over to Southampton Zoning Administrator Robert L. Barnett, who then sought from the Circuit Court a Petition of Enforcement of the consent decree.

&uot;We need to go and ride now more than ever and support Mr. T, so they have a battle here,&uot; one participant wrote in a ThumperTalk forum a couple of weeks after the raid. &uot;If we all give up, there will be no place safe for our kids to ride.&uot;

In March, a judge found Anthony Scodes to be in contempt of court for failing to obey the consent decree.

Judge Westbrook J. Parker fined Scodes $7,500, suspended on condition that construction and operation of the track cease until the property is properly rezoned and permitted and until Scodes complies with all of the requirements of the Erosion and Sediment Control Ordinance.

Getting the property rezoned and properly permitted would be the first step toward removing that fine from the record.

&uot;I know Tony pretty well and speak to him on a regular basis, and he says things are looking up,&uot; another poster wrote on ThumperTalk last month. &uot;I hear that he has thought about adding more jumps and a possible tunnel for the track.&uot;

Scodes could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, and a &uot;Closed&uot; sign hung on the gate leading to his property.

The Planning Commission will hear the request and receive public comment regarding it Thursday at 7:30 p.m.