Plans for ATV park draw fire

October 14, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

Lester Horst, owner of an all-terrain vehicle and motorcycle repair shop behind his house on Coseytown Road, said he's confused by his neighbors' opposition over his plan to turn 45 acres into an ATV park.

The Antrim Township Supervisors scheduled a public hearing on Horst's plan for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Kauffman Community Center at 7289 Ruritan Drive.

Horst said he opened his repair shop and retail store at 4495 Coseytown Road in 1983.

Last week, Antrim Township officials officially notified him that his business is in violation of local zoning regulations and ordered him to close it.


He thinks it's a ploy by opponents to force him to drop his plans to build the park.

"I've been here nearly 20 years and I've never had a problem," Horst said.

He received building permits in 1993 and 1997 to add to his business, he said.

The zoning regulations have been in place since 1976, Township Administrator Teresa Schnoor said.

Businesses like Horst's repair and retail shop are not permitted in R-1, or low-density, zones, Schnoor said.

"It's as simple as that," she said.

The Antrim Township Supervisors ordered an investigation of Horst's business after residents complained that it violated the zoning regulations.

"If a complaint comes in we have to investigate," Township Supervisor B.J. Roberts said.

Horst wants to change the zoning to R-2, or medium density, because that designation has a conditional use clause that permits outdoor recreational activities.

Horst's request for a zoning change is a separate issue from his alleged violation of existing regulations, Schnoor said.

Horst learned in January that he was eligible for a $100,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to build an ATV park on his property.

The money is part of $700,000 collected from ATV license fees that the state has set aside to expand ATV and snowmobile trails on private property in Pennsylvania. Most are in state forests.

Neighbors opposing the ATV park live near Horst's property in Antrim and Montgomery townships in Pennsylvania and Washington County. The three jurisdictions come together near Coseytown Road near the Maryland state line.

Schnoor said the supervisors would listen to anyone on the dispute.

The neighbors organized Area Citizens Against the Park - or ACAP - to fight the park, said John Blair of Coseytown Road, one of the organizers. The group has submitted petitions to the supervisors.

The members have also hired Chambersburg attorney G. Bryan Salzmann to represent them.

Salzmann said that while Horst's existing ATV trails are an irritant to his clients they have tolerated them.

"Their greatest concern is that they might be expanded because of the grant," he said.

He said his clients have no problem with Horst's repair and retail business, only the outdoor activities. They complain about the dust the ATV track raises and are concerned about how much more serious it would become if it expanded over 45 acres.

They are also concerned about increased traffic on Coseytown Road, Salzmann said.

He said he supplied the supervisors with a copy of Horst's application for the state grant, which includes the initial 45 acres, but then lists potential future growth for the ATV park on an adjacent farm owned by a relative.

Horst said he has operated the ATV trail for 13 years without complaint.

He is a certified ATV instructor and teaches ATV safety, he said. His students include regular operators, but he also teaches safety to DCNR and Pennsylvania Game Commission officers and employees of private businesses.

"My main goal is to teach safety and provide a safe place for young ATV and dirt bike users. I'm trying to get them off the road," he said.

"All I'm trying to do is to make a safe place where kids can do the activities that they like to do today," Horst said. "I never dreamed I would get into something like this.

"It's incredible how things get blown out of proportion. I've had no chance to get my side in."

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