Thursday, November 30, 2006
Cycle club denied permit
By SUE WATSON
A private motor sports group, that has operated events in the Slayden area without a permit for six or seven years, was denied further activity by the Marshall County Board of Supervisors last week.
Memphis Motor Sports Association, a for charity, non-profit group that has held two events a year in Marshall County, also has events in Salisbury and Somerville, Tenn., according to Doug Jolly.
The group held what they described as low-impact (environmentally) riding competitions with donations going to St. Jude, Big Brothers and Big Sisters and other charities, he said.
But neighbors complained the dirt bikes are making too much noise, even though the operators said they play in the middle of a 400-acre tract of land.
“We’re the good guys; we police our sport,” Jolly said. “There’s no drinking, we clean up after ourselves and have control sound checks for noise.”
At a given event up to 100 motorcycles trail ride in the middle of the woods. The group parks on the grass near a church and donates parking fees to the church, he said. Boy scouts hold paint-ball wars on the property.
“We do damage the property but we try to fix it up,” Jolly said. “We have tried to do everything we can not to be a problem and this is the first time we’ve had to go before zoning (either in Mississippi or Tennessee).”
But that was not enough to convince supervisors to allow the group to continue their sport in Marshall County.
Property owners with adjacent land complained that they can hear the noise and have complained many times to no avail.
Mark Story, who said he has been a member three years, said the American Motorcycle Association has been working to get its membership to reduce noise and that motor sports is becoming a popular sport.
Sensing lack of support from the board, Story said he thought it odd that there is objection, when there are activities in neighborhoods that are much noisier, 4-wheeler racing and hunting with high-powered rifles.
He said the association checks noise “to make sure we are able to continue racing and doing the sports we love.”
Supervisors and the board attorney weighed in on the matter, with Eddie Dixon explaining first that the club could only be permitted in an agricultural/residential zoned area by special exception.
“The closest thing (in an A/R zone) are parks and playgrounds,” said attorney Tacey Clark Clayton.
Story said he did not know how Henderson County, Tenn., zoned to allow the sport.
“We are just like a church with organized events,” said Jolly.
“Churches and a school is a use, but no exception would apply as I see it fitting in,” the attorney said.
Story suggested the club would fit in an area that allowed a hunting club or non-profit leasing of property. He said Hardeman County repermitted his motorsport association.
“We try to be strict and it is because we’ve spent so much time and money to get the zoning (on the books),” Clayton said.
Story asked what was the opposition with regard to this club operating.
“Agricultural/Residential zoning,” said supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett.
“And hunting clubs?” Story asked.
Existing hunting clubs would be grandfathered in, Clayton said.
Dixon said he remembered the property owner from Slayden being given a one-time use permission to have an event.
“How it happened all the other years - I guess you got caught when we got these zoning laws,” he said.
Supervisor Keith Taylor explained that the county had zoning laws as far back as the beginning of the club’s operation but the laws were beefed up with the recent Comprehensive Plan adopted by the county. He added that some opposition to racing in Tennessee drew public outcry because for-profits were moving in and operating the race tracks.
“Agricultural zoning would probably allow it but not residential,” Clayton added.
“We are only asking for two events a year,” said Jolly. He added that no trouble that would require calling the sheriff has ever occurred during his events.
“Over time things change,” Story said.
Taylor clarified that over the last eight years, zoning has been in place to require a permit.
“As soon as we heard that a zoning permit was needed, we’ve worked to get one,” Story said.
“My property borders that property directly,” said one of the members of about eight present at the meeting in objection to the racing event.
“My suggestion to this board is we follow zoning (and deny the permit),” said Dixon.
With that Taylor motioned to deny the Memphis Motor Sport Association’s appeal, Bennett seconded, and the board voted unanimously to deny the permit by special exception.
In other business, the board of supervisors:
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