Family hobby irks others

Couple appeal county order to stop their motorbike track

Neighbors dislike noise

July 25, 1999|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

The rumble of tractor trailers and commuter traffic on nearby Interstate 95 doesn't bother Carol Banko.

It's the roar of motorbikes in her neighbor's back yard south of Route 216 and west of I-95 in North Laurel that draws her ire.

"It's annoying," Banko says of the noise coming from a motorbike track built by Jonathan Miller. "If I'm having a picnic or an outing on my backyard deck, there's no way I could enjoy it because [the noise] is constant."

It appears that Howard County officials agree. A zoning inspector from the county Department of Planning and Zoning issued a zoning violation notice in May to Jonathan and Sonya Miller telling them to shut down the track, but they are appealing the order, with a hearing set for Sept. 21.

Motorbike tracks are not permitted in residential districts, says Joseph W. Rutter Jr., director of the Department of Planning and Zoning.

Last week, Jonathan Miller had agreed to discuss the case with The Sun but changed his mind after his attorney, Conwell F. Sapp, advised him not to. Sapp also declined to comment.

The Millers presented their reasoning to keep the track in a petition filed with the department, arguing that the track is a private recreational facility with "no commercial aspects."

The couple also contend that upholding the county order would "unfairly restrict a family hobby."

A map filed with the department shows that the irregular, oval-shaped track is in the northwestern corner of a 4.1-acre site at the end of Shady Acres Lane.

Sons race competitively

Heavily buffered from Route 216, the track is used by the Millers' two sons who race competitively in local and regional motorbike meets.

According to Doug Isokait, president of the Rosemont Homeowners Association that represents 30 homes on adjacent Rosemont Drive, Miller built the track last fall.

Isokait says Miller's sons rode their motorbikes on the track after school and on weekends.

"It basically sounds like to us 100 chain saws going off," Isokait says, noting that noise has been less frequent since the county issued the violation notice.

Isokait and Banko say noise from the bikes on the track prevents homeowners in the cul-de-sac on Rosemont Drive from having backyard parties.

A neighbor, Sue Hart, asked the Millers a week before a party at her home to refrain from any dirt-bike activity on that day, which they did.

But, "Should you really have to do that?" Banko asks. "I don't think that's right. If you want to sit outside with your family and have hamburgers, you shouldn't have to call someone in advance to see if it's OK."

`Unwilling participants'

The irony is that Jonathan Miller is well liked by Rosemont residents who remember when Miller joined them in a successful fight to prevent Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. from hoisting power lines above their homes.

"No one is disputing Mr. Miller's activity in terms of competition," Isokait says, referring to Miller's sons' bike racing. "But we do feel like we are unwilling participants in his pursuit of this hobby."

Although Isokait says it is unlikely a compromise could be forged, Hart says she hopes both sides can come to an agreement.

"Our desire is to work things out in a peaceful way," Hart says. "We want to try and preserve the community bond."

Pub Date: 7/25/99

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