Proposed regulation of private motor tracks in rural residential areas was wildly unpopular among more than 100 people at a public hearing Thursday.
The 30 who spoke against restrictions on motorcycles and off-road vehicles got Harley-caliber applause from almost everyone in the audience, especially when one of them declared a consensus: “We want to ride.”
Only four people had kind words for a zoning code amendment the Spokane County Planning Commission is considering, and one of those called for compromise.
The proposal would confine noncommercial tracks for motorcycles and off-road vehicles to agricultural, forest and rural zoning categories, excluding the “rural activity center” zone.
Where allowed, motor tracks could be no larger than two acres within 10-acre or larger parcels. Tracks would have to be at least 100 feet away from property lines and at least 250 feet from any neighbor’s house.
Tracks could operate only during daylight hours, and use would be limited to people who live on the property.
Thursday’s testimony boiled down to a question of property rights for both sides: to do as one pleases or to be free from what pleases one’s neighbor.
“You have rights; we have rights,” said Mead-area resident Nathaniel “Kim” Predisik. “I think we can come to a compromise.”
Predisik played recordings of roaring engines he said were made from inside his house.
On the other hand, Otis Orchards resident Rick Turner displayed photos of decibel meters he said showed his riding lawnmower is a lot noisier than his “pit bike.”
Turner’s neighbor on Wedgewood Lane, Diana Uphus, said “large, boisterous noises” from Turner’s elaborate dirt track keep her from enjoying her home, and dust exacerbates her son’s respiratory problems.
She proposed increasing the minimum distance between tracks and neighbors’ houses to 1,000 feet. Instead of having to go to court to enforce the regulations, county officials should be able to issue $500 fines, Uphus said.
“Innocent taxpayers” shouldn’t have to “baby-sit these people,” she said.
“Move,” someone in the audience shouted.
Uphus lived in the area long before Turner moved in and built his track, Lucinda Marshall said.
The dispute between Uphus and Turner figures prominently in county commissioners’ request for a zoning-code amendment.
The proposal presumes the county noise ordinance is ineffective because enforcement is a low priority for the Sheriff’s Office and it is difficult to catch violators in the act.
However, Turner read sheriff’s reports indicating deputies listened and felt there was no excessive noise.
“I have been continually harassed with 23 complaints to the sheriff,” Turner said. “There have been no citations.”
Many other speakers said they have tracks that have never generated complaints because they are considerate.
“All of us need to respect our neighbors,” said Bill Berry, who lives in the 11600 block of East Viewridge Lane, “and they need to understand that this is our passion.”