Illegal track generates noise, creates a sense that rules don’t apply

Published 8:03 am Monday, August 25, 2008

I have watched in stunned disbelief as some of the members of the Southampton Board of Supervisors have disregarded the comprehensive plan and ignored the testimony of people living near the illegal motorcycle track in the Zuni/Ivor area.

Not only have they set a dangerous precedent by spot zoning in direct contravention of the comprehensive plan, but, by their actions, they have now encouraged others to break the law. They have agreed to rezone agricultural land to industrial in the middle of more than 200 homes, and to permit a nuisance to operate where it will disturb the peace and quiet of the community and destroy their quality of life.

When the county first took Tony Scodes to court in 2003 for building and operating a race track without the proper permits, they also sent letters to four other landowners who were allowing others to come onto their agricultural land and ride motorcycles in violation of the county zoning ordinances.

All four of those operations ceased. But with Scodes operating his track illegally for many years, and the board of supervisors agreeing to forgive his violation of the law, how many of those tracks will start up again?

Supervisor Walt Brown had a problem with the term “race track” on the application. He seems to think that the riders just putt leisurely around the property.

The presence of eight-foot table tops and jumps on the track indicates that riders have to be traveling at a high rate of speed to negotiate these obstacles. The definition of race is not limited to a track that has a start and stop line. The term race is also defined as “to move rapidly or at top speed,” which certainly describes the activity captured on tape by an undercover officer.

How many more tracks will now start up, maybe in a field near you? After all, if the county is going to just ignore the fact that one man violated the zoning ordinances and a court order, why wouldn’t they do that for everyone?

All you have to say is that you built it for the kids to ride on and you didn’t know you were breaking the law, and the board of supervisors will bless and forgive your illegal behavior.

For that matter, why should anyone in the county bother to get any kind of permit? If the county is willing to forgive Scodes for not getting permits to build and operate his track, then they should be willing to do the same for everyone else. So don’t worry about getting permits to disturb wetlands, build a shed, add on to your house, etc. If illegal behavior is going to be overlooked by the county, then why shouldn’t we all start ignoring the county ordinances?

Scodes ignored not only the county ordinances but a court order not to do any construction or allow riding on that track.

As a neighbor of the illegal track, let me tell you what you can expect once a track opens up near you. Every Saturday, Sunday and holiday, you will be subjected to screaming motorcycles loud enough to give you a pounding headache and raise your blood pressure, from early in the morning until dark.

This noise will be able to be heard for at least a mile from the track. And if there is no barrier, like 1,000 feet or more of dense trees, the noise will carry for further than that at levels that have been shown to cause severe annoyance and stress.

When an undercover officer went to the illegal track last September, they told him that they had just finished adding more jumps to the track. The deputy was accompanied by a surveillance team. In the report that was made on the undercover operation, all three of the officers made note of the amount of dust and noise being generated at the track.

In the search warrant for the raid that was conducted in November, the officers used the term “excessive noise” and swore under oath that they had heard the noise and that other officers responding to neighbors’ complaints had also heard the noise from that track. But the members of the board of supervisors somehow believe that the laws of physics do not apply to this track, and that if you can’t see the track, you must not be able to hear it.

Anyone who was living in the county after Hurricane Isabel will remember the hum of generators and the screaming of chainsaws. You did not have to see them to be able to hear them. The same holds true for the bikes that ride on that track.

On the list of names of people who were interviewed by the officers in November, only one lives in Southampton. All of the other riders listed were from outside the county. Some of the members of the Board of Supervisors seem to think that this would be a good recreation area for the county. Yet the evidence from the raid indicates that it is people from outside the county who will benefit the most from this track.