Supervisors delay decision on Ivor track

Published 4:04 pm Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Supervisors had been set to consider the potential stipulations of a conditional use permit that would be necessary for the track to resume operation. Their action, however—combined with its unusual position on the agenda after a backroom discussion of potential litigation—was an implicit acknowledgement of the risk of moving too quickly on the matter.

Returning from its closed session at the end of Monday’s monthly meeting, the Board of Supervisors voted 6-1 to table consideration of a conditional use permit for 60 days.

In moving to postpone the decision, Newsoms District Supervisor Walt Brown said the county’s staff should survey other Virginia localities with similar facilities to see what conditions they place on the operations.

Brown has been a vocal supporter of Tony Scodes’ 55-acre track on a 238-acre property alongside New Road. He was one of a slight majority of supervisors that voted in July to rezone the property to a category that allows dirt tracks.

That group also voted to send the matter back to the Planning Commission for consideration of the constraints that would govern the conditional use permit, which is necessary for the track to actually operate legally.

Earlier this month, however, planners refused to follow the board’s direction, instead voting to recommend that supervisors turn down Scodes’ conditional use permit application.

Since the Planning Commission is merely an advisory group, supervisors were free on Monday to take any action they desired, and some planners had predicted that the board would move ahead with the process in spite of them, setting its own conditions and approving the conditional use permit by the same 5-4 margin that had prevailed in the rezoning vote.

But the threat of a lawsuit by a group of track opponents, many whom are neighbors, may have slowed things down on Monday. Supervisors made no direct comment about the legal situation, but they met for about two hours behind closed doors to talk about—among other things—“legal matters related to the potential litigations associated with land use matters.”

Berlin-Ivor District Supervisor Ronald M. West was the only board member to vote against the motion to postpone action.

Diane Kropewnicki, a neighbor of the track, which Scodes operated illegally from 2003 to 2007, said Monday that she and more than a dozen other opponents have banded together to hire an attorney in an attempt to force Southampton to rescind its rezoning decision.

Kropewnicki also said she had given several supervisors copies of a DVD with video footage showing the track in action from her property. The video, she said, shows clouds of dust rising from the track and makes it clear just how loud the facility was when it was operating.

For his part, Scodes said during a break in the Board of Supervisors meeting that he didn’t believe the noise was as bad as Kropewnicki and other neighbors have claimed.

Also, he described riding events when hundreds of people were on the farm, noting that he had strict rules for participants, but adding that he and other workers were sometimes unable to enforce them.

Scodes also repeated his claim that he thought he was operating within the law while he ran the track, explaining that he had received land-disturbance permits from the state on multiple occasions.

Scodes set out earlier this year to get county approval for the facility, which he had operated illegally for several years before it was shut down following a 2007 police raid.

Following up on neighbors’ complaints last fall, police found that Scodes was operating the track in violation of a 2003 court-brokered consent decree, which itself resulted when Scodes was caught running the track without the proper zoning permits.

Between 2003 and the fall of 2007, opponents said, Scodes allowed hundreds of riders to use the track he built on his 238-acre New Road property. Many of them spoke out on his behalf during July’s two-hour public hearing.

He finally stopped operating the facility after the police raid, and he sought the latest round of county approvals as a result of a contempt-of-court ruling issued by a judge in March for Scodes’ violation of the consent decree.