Board denies permit for controversial track

Published 11:20 pm Tuesday, October 28, 2008

IVOR — Although the Southampton County Board of Supervisors voted Monday to deny a conditional use permit for a dirt track near Ivor, a lawsuit against the board over the track remains in place for now, one of the plaintiffs says.

But Diane Kropewnicki, one of 16 area residents who brought a lawsuit against the board on Aug. 27, said the plaintiffs “will hold off and not force it to go to court immediately.”

Kropewnicki said the plaintiffs wanted to give the county board time to reverse its decision from earlier this year to zone Tony Scodes’ property as industrial. Scodes owns 238 acres on New Road, and has in the past operated a 55-acre dirt track for motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles at the site.

“We want to give them time to rezone it back,” Kropewnicki said Tuesday. “The only resolution (to the lawsuit) is for them to rezone it. We will not be satisfied until the property is rezoned as agricultural.”

Jay Randolph, assistant county administrator for Southampton, said the board would at some point in the future discuss rezoning Scodes’ property, and would also call a public hearing.

The board voted 4-2 to deny issuing a conditional use permit to Scodes on Monday. Newsoms Supervisor Walt Brown and Jerusalem Supervisor Anita Felts voted against denying the permit.

Commenting on Monday’s vote, Kropewnicki said “we’re extremely pleased that the Board of Supervisors has come to this decision. We think it was the right decision.”

When asked if the plaintiffs would drop their lawsuit without the rezoning, Kropewnicki said no.

“It’s kind of like The Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads,” Kropewnicki said, referring to the track’s opponents. “(Scodes) could refile.”

In the wake of Monday’s decision, Scodes said he went to see a lawyer on Tuesday to see what his options were. He said he would know within a few days what course of action he could take.

“This is the biggest mess I have ever seen,” Scodes said. “I spent all of this money. I can’t ride on my property. I can’t ride on it ever.”

Scodes said he arrived about 15 minutes late to Monday’s county board meeting.

“They wouldn’t hear from me,” Scodes said of the board. “I went up and talked to (County Administrator) Michael Johnson and he said they had already made their decision.”

Johnson confirmed talking with Scodes at the meeting, and told him that the county board was willing to rezone his property to agricultural at no expense.

“They’ve tarred and feathered me,” Scodes added. “I can’t do anything on my property for the rest of my life.”

H. Woodrow Crook of Smithfield is the attorney representing the group of residents suing the county. A message seeking comment on Monday’s board vote was left with Crook but not returned.

The 16 plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Diane, Ronald and Hunter Kropewnicki; Sherri and Samuel McMillion; Ricky and Irma Roberts; Burton Presson Jr.; Gordon and Lisa Calhoun; Linda and Willoughby Colonna III; Robert Orr; Debra Beasley; and Charlie and Diane Harris.

Monday’s vote was the latest development in the long-running battle between supporters and opponents of Scodes’ track.

Scodes operated the track in breach of county zoning laws for several years. He set out earlier this year to get county approval for the facility, which shut down following a 2007 police raid.

Police, responding to neighbors’ complaints last fall, found that Scodes 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 his track.

Scodes 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 his violation of the 2003 agreement.