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'Dirt track' noise bugs neighbors

August 20, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - When the phone rings, Teddi Garrison heads for her back yard.

Garrison, speaking to the Washington County Commissioners last week, said she does so because it's the only way she can hear what the person on the other end is saying.

Garrison, who lives on Wagaman Road off Sharpsburg Pike, said what residents describe as a "dirt track" used for riding dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) is creating noise pollution in the neighborhood.

Garrison lives directly across the street from the track, which is in the yard of a private residence on Wagaman Road.

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The track is near the road and close to a farm.

"My front door is about 75 feet from the track," Garrison told the County Commissioners at a meeting last week. "I can't hear in my home."

Several residents asked the commissioners whether there were any county laws regulating such tracks on residential properties.

County Attorney Richard Douglas said Thursday that the county doesn't have a noise ordinance and that its zoning ordinance doesn't apply to people who ride dirt bikes or ATVs on their own property.

Douglas hesitated to call the Wagaman Road property an actual track, saying it could just be an area that wore out from dirt bike and ATV use.

He said, however, residents can contact the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) with noise complaints.

MDE enforces state noise regulations, which say noise in residential areas is not to exceed 65 decibels from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and 55 decibels from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., according to MDE's Web site.

"The more people that complain the better," Assistant County Attorney Duane Gigeous told residents at the commissioners meeting last week. "The squeaky wheel gets the grease."

MDE could order anybody violating the state law to comply with the regulation or issue fines of up to $10,000 per day until the action stops, according to MDE's Web site. Dirt bike noise is one of 15 complaints the MDE commonly addresses, the site states. Other commonly addressed complaints include loud music from bands, off-road truck noise, church bells and swimming pool pumps.

Phone calls placed to the residence where the "track" is located were not returned.

Douglas said the county would wait to see what MDE does before it discusses changing the zoning ordinance.

Garrison said she doesn't think tracks should be outlawed in the county, but that they should be located in appropriate, safe areas.

Wagaman Road resident Teresa Shank told the commissioners that motorcyclists and all-terrain vehicle riders often stray from the track and drive around on the narrow Wagaman Road.

"It's really getting dangerous out there," Shank said.

Garrison said she nearly had a head-on collision with a 9-year-old boy who was riding a dirt bike on the road.

Rick Hockensmith, who lives just off Wagaman Road on Wandering Lane, said the riders speed in the neighborhood and leave skid marks on the roads.

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