Board rejects backyard track

2 families had asked panel to allow dirt-bike course they created on their land

Finksburg

January 08, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County Board of Zoning Appeals rejected yesterday an appeal by two Finksburg families who say they should be allowed to maintain a recreational track in their back yards.

The board's decision underscores what county officials say is becoming a problem in Carroll County. In recent months, complaints about all-terrain vehicles and motorized dirt bikes in residential subdivisions have raised concerns about noise. A committee, which met for the second time last month, is examining ways to alleviate those concerns.

The issue was highlighted in yesterday's nearly three-hour hearing involving Todd Davis and Patricia Summers, next-door neighbors on Sir Richards Court in Finksburg who created a track in their back yards in the fall.

They said they wanted to provide a place for their children to ride motorized dirt bikes, snowboards and bicycles while being supervised. Each lives on a 3-acre lot in Castles Rising.

The county allows race courses only in agricultural zones.

After receiving a complaint from a neighbor of Davis and Summers, the county's zoning administrator found in October that they were violating the zoning ordinance.

"I'd like to say that we had no idea prior to the formal notice [of violation] that the track and motorcycles were so offensive," Summers said. "No neighbor ever called to complain."

Davis and Summers disputed the zoning administrator's interpretation of their track as a race course.

"It's hard to believe they have a race course back there," said Meredith Davis, speaking in support of her husband, Todd Davis. "They're not racing out back."

Zoning Administrator Neil Ridgely told the board that his office has interpreted race courses to generally mean "routine use of [all-terrain vehicles], automobiles and motorcycles over a course for the purpose of riding around."

Although the dispute centers on whether the track in the Davis and Summers back yards constitutes a race course, concerns about noise also became an issue.

Ridgely told the board that noise was probably the principal reason for complaints about dirt bikes and tracks in residential neighborhoods.

"It's not about zoning," Todd Davis said, noting that none of his neighbors had complained directly to him. "It's about the noise."

During the hearing, a videotape, taken by a neighbor was shown to the Board of Zoning Appeals. It showed at least three children riding motorized bikes on the track and jumping over dirt mounds. A chainsaw-like buzzing could be clearly heard.

Several neighbors complained to the board about the noise and expressed concerns about declining property values because of the graded track in their subdivision.

Kenneth Ward, whose deck faces the track, said he could hear the motorized bikes inside his house, even with the doors closed.

Bonnie J. Boyle, whose property abuts the track, said she's afraid the dirt course will lower the value of her house.

"At some time, I'll go into an assisted-living facility or move out. ... I'm counting on the value of my property," said Boyle, whose complaint to the county's zoning office started the investigation.

The five-member board voted 4-1 to uphold Ridgely's decision. Benjamin Perricone, who cast the dissenting vote, said the track in question should not be considered a race course.

Other members said the residential subdivision is an inappropriate place for motorized bikes.

"A rose is a rose. A racetrack is a racetrack," said member Jacob Yingling.

Summers and Davis have 30 days to appeal to Carroll County Circuit Court after the board makes its decision final in writing. In the meantime, they are forbidden to use or maintain the track, said Amy Grossi, an assistant county attorney.

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