ATVs create noise, rights debate

Regulating vehicles' use on private land pondered

Carroll County

December 10, 2003|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Complaints about all-terrain vehicles and motorized dirt bikes in residential subdivisions have prompted Carroll County officials to examine ways to alleviate concerns over noise.

A committee with representatives from the county's parks and recreation, zoning, facilities, health and permits departments, along with officials from the sheriff's and county attorney's offices, met for the second time yesterday to exchange ideas and discuss solutions.

"[The group] is researching the problem from the complainants' and the users' points of view," said Ralph E. Green, director of the county's Department of General Services, who is leading the effort. "We're investigating both sides of the issue."

Recent complaints center around graded courses that have been built in residential back yards, said Neil Ridgely, the county's zoning administrator. His office is handling about a half-dozen complaints from throughout the county, including Eldersburg, Finksburg and Manchester, Ridgely said.

At least three property owners have been cited for violating zoning regulations for "maintaining a racecourse" on their land, according to county records. Ridgely acknowledged that homeowners have property rights. "I truly see both sides of it," he said.

Loud, constant noise from four-wheel ATVs and dirt bikes is the principal reason for the complaints, Ridgely said. The county, however, does not have an ordinance controlling noise levels. Proposing such a law is among the options the committee will consider in the next few months.

Others include refining the county's zoning ordinance to set requirements for setting up ATV tracks. Yet another is possibly creating a public racecourse for ATVs and dirt bikes in Carroll County. The committee hopes to make recommendations to the county commissioners in early spring, Green said.

The county only allows for racecourses on land in agricultural zone districts. One such case involves two families in Finksburg, who are appealing Ridgely's decision to the county Board of Zoning Appeals.

Vernon Summers, 40, who lives on Sir Richards Court, created a track in his and an adjoining neighbor's back yards for their children.

Summers disputed Ridgely's characterization of his track as a racecourse, saying he wanted a place where his two sons could ride their dirt bikes with adult supervision and have fun.

Summers and the neighbor each live on 3-acre lots.

"To the best of my knowledge, it's not against the law to ride your motorcycle on our property," said Patricia Summers, 40, Vernon's wife. "It's our property."

But another neighbor, Bonnie J. Boyle, in a September letter to Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr., wrote that she and her husband are "subjected to high levels of noise that can be heard inside our home with the windows closed, air conditioning running, and the TV on."

"We are unable to enjoy our deck, pool and back yard due to the noise," Boyle wrote. She declined to comment yesterday.

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