Residents sue Board over Ivor track

Published 9:53 pm Sunday, August 31, 2008

COURTLAND—A group of 16 area residents has sued the Southampton County Board of Supervisors for its recent decision to rezone an agricultural property near Ivor for use as a dirt track for motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles.

Led by racetrack opponent and neighbor Diane Kropewnicki, the group filed suit through its attorney, H. Woodrow Crook of Smithfield, on Aug. 27.

The suit, filed in Southampton County Circuit Court, appeals the board’s July zoning decision on the grounds that it was “an arbitrary and capricious exercise of legislative power constituting illegal spot zoning.”

“The rezoning of the property bears no reasonable or substantial relation to the public health and safety laws and does not further the welfare of the County, but actually contravenes same,” the plaintiffs allege.

Southampton County Administrator Michael Johnson, who is also named in the legal action, said in a message on Thursday that neither he nor supervisors would have public comment on the lawsuit. A special Board of Supervisors meeting has been set for 8 a.m. Sept. 4. Members are expected to meet in closed session to receive legal counsel from County Attorney Richard E. Railey Jr.

“We would not be spending our hard-earned money to fight this if it was not a serious issue,” Kropewnicki said in an email Friday.

Earlier this week, supervisors tabled consideration of stipulations for the track that would allow it to operate legally under a conditional use permit.

The action was the latest in a long series of deliberations and decisions, legal challenges and court actions concerning the controversial racetrack, which owner Tony Scodes operated in breach of county zoning laws for several years.

Scodes set out again earlier this year to get county approval for the facility, which he had finally shut down following a 2007 police raid.

Following up on neighbors’ complaints last fall, police found that he was operating the track in violation of a 2003 court-brokered consent decree, which itself had 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.

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.