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Crowd sounds off on noise issues at Berkeley County motocross track

October 03, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - An overflowing crowd, most appearing to be supporters of motocross, attended the Berkeley County Commission's hearing Thursday evening on proposed revisions to the county's noise ordinance.

Fans and riders of the sport, one as young as 12 years old, urged the county not to make Tomahawk Motocross, a 1.3 mile track southwest of Hedgesville, comply with changes that include the addition of 55- and 60-decibel limits for residential areas at certain hours of the day.

Residential neighbors of the motocross venue that has operated on 110 acres off Tomahawk Run Road since 2001 were less forgiving.

"It was a wonderful place to live until the track came in," Rhonda West said. "We tried to move. We had our house on the market ... we can not get out."

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Timber Ridge subdivision resident Dave Swineford presented county commissioners with a copy of a noise study completed this summer, which he said offered evidence that the noise levels ranged from 51 to 120 decibels at his home, where the track is about 50 feet away.

Swineford said he bought land in the subdivision in 2003 in winter and didn't realize the track was there at the time.

Many of the motocross proponents traveled several miles to attend the hearing with speakers from Pennsylvania, Frederick, Md., Leesburg, Va., and Carroll and Montgomery counties in Maryland, touting the races at the facility as family-oriented and an economic boon to Berkeley County.

Tomahawk Motocross owner Chad Gochenour told county officials after the hearing that he was willing to sit down with county leaders to try to work out a resolution to the concerns, which have persisted since for at least five years.

"We're willing to work with anyone," Gochenour said in a brief interview after the hearing.

In the noise ordinance that county leaders adopted in September 2007, motocross facilities were exempt from the regulations.

After hearing from 31 people, County Commissioner Ronald K. Collins said he didn't feel the state or the county had the legal ground to pass an ordinance or legislation that would push a business out of business.

Commission legal counsel Norwood Bentley said he believed the county could adopt standards if they were reasonable and the county had no intention of trying to shut the track down.

Bentley said he was encouraged by people who spoke in favor of reaching a "happy medium" to solve the track noise issue and didn't expect that situation to derail efforts to revise the ordinance.

Commissioner William L. "Bill" Stubblefield asked for documentation that would show when the motocross track received environmental protection permits from the state and was allowed by county officials to locate near a residential area.

Commission President Steven C. Teufel said the commission would review submitted comments and may hold another hearing.

"We're not going to rush through it," Teufel said.

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