Supervisors Say Good Neighbors Could Help Solve County Private Track Problem

An issue that involves noise, dust, glaring lights, late hours, screaming engines and youthful recreation has the Butte County Board of Supervisors trying to encourage people to be good neighbors.

Tuesday the board heard a proposed ordinance aimed at regulating unofficial off-highway vehicle tracks, which are reportedly popping up around the county.

Over the last two years the county has received complaints about the operation of two of these tracks, and in 2009 the board directed the Department of Development Services to look into an ordinance that would establish rules and set standards for locations and operations of the tracks.

Claudia Stuart, principal planner for the county, presented a detailed outline for a proposed ordinance that would establish what zones would be appropriate for such uses, required 500-foot setbacks from the nearest homes, established maximum sound thresholds at the property lines, list minimum acreage, hours of operation and other standards the tracks would be required to meet.

Almost immediately it was clear the proposal was more sweeping and more detailed than most of the supervisors had in mind.

Oroville Supervisor Bill Connelly, who chairs the board, said these concerns were largely a matter of “neighbor problems,” and it seemed to him an issue that could be fixed by a metaphorical “hammer” was being attacked with a county “sledgehammer.”

Connelly said backyard tracks are “great family entertainment.”

During
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the next hour a parade of individuals stepped to the podium to praise the virtues of such motor sports as family recreation, as part of the rural experience, and as a way to teach boys to work with their hands and be responsible.

Don Flaner, who owns a track at his home at 3525 Keefer Road north of Chico, said his track has been put together very carefully, has a watering system to keep down the dust, is never run late, and hasn’t been used much this year because of the heavy rains.

But Mike Williams lives on Santa Clara Avenue in the vicinity of Ranchero Airport in southwest Chico, near one of the tracks that has been the subject of many complaints.

He said the conditions are bad enough to constitute a public nuisance.

It is extremely loud and the county’s nuisance abatement ordinance, which is generally used to clean heavily trashed, deteriorating, and often abandoned buildings, could be used to force changes in offending tracks.

Robert Parker, who lives at the Santa Clara track, said it has been there for 38 years.

“It’s not like we are shooting guns or doing anything that’s a danger to the public or are we making enough noise to create a hardship,” said Parker.

Roxanne Parker, who owns the property at 2171 Santa Clara, the home of the track, said she moved there to raise her two sons and claimed the track keeps kids out of trouble. She said the riding never goes much later than 11 p.m. and the noise really isn’t that bad because she can sleep through it.

“That’s intolerable!” said Paradise Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi to the 11 p.m. statement.

Yamaguchi, who rides motorcycles recreationally, said, “That infuriates me.”

He went on to say that it is “rogue individuals” who do things that impact other people’s property rights that create a situation that is “hostile.”

Supervisor Steve Lambert, who represents the 4th District, said there wouldn’t be an issue with the tracks if people would be good neighbors, and that means shutting down at a decent hour.

Lambert said he didn’t want the negative actions of a few individuals to make it impossible for the rest of the county to enjoy reasonably using such private tracks.

Finally the board directed county staff to shelve the proposed ordinance and asked that existing noise, lighting and nuisance abatement codes be investigated to see how they apply.

The staff will return at a later date to report on what was found.