Wednesday, December 13, 2017
News Roundup

Pasco commissioners blast motocross track owner

DADE CITY — In 2010, international motocross star Chad Reed got what he wanted — even when he expanded a track before getting county permission.

Neighbors complained about the noise, but commissioners argued that by granting Reed a conditional use permit, at least they could control the hours of operation (no riding on Saturdays and Sundays) and his ability to market the land if he ever sells it (the permission to have the practice facility would leave with him).

If they denied him, they said, Reed could still use the two previously approved tracks — without the new conditions. And they said that if Reed took the county to court over the denial, a judge may side with him and also require no special conditions.

"In my mind, I think you're better off," Commissioner Ted Schrader told residents at the time.

But Reed started running outside of the allowed hours. He put in go-carts, drawing complaints from neighbors, who sent in videos and photos. A racing blog even talked about how the "awesomeness" of Reed's track had become "legendary."

Awfulness is a better word to describe the track, said neighbors who have fought Reed for the past two years. Late last year, county officials agreed and recommended that the conditional use permit for the track between Dade City and Zephyrhills be revoked.

"He's an absolute, arrogant, unashamed scofflaw," attorney Charles Burr said of Reed. Burr represents Bud and Jacque Klein, who live near the track.

They say meters at their property line record the noise at more than 70 decibels.

"It's so loud you can hear the squeaking wheels of the carts," neighbor Melissa Stoll said.

The matter almost came to a head Tuesday, but Reed got the process delayed — but not without some harsh words from commissioners.

They've been dealing with Reed, a Lake Jovita resident, since 2004 when he received approval for two indoor tracks on 4 acres, which allowed as many as three riders at one time. But in 2009 he began building a third course — dirt tracks and jumps meandering through 11 acres — without going back to the county. That's when he sought the conditional use permit.

"I'm so angry," said Commissioner Pat Mulieri, who was ready to revoke the permit immediately. "What they're doing is smacking us in the face."

On Friday, Reed, who did not attend Tuesday's meeting, hired land use attorney Barbara Wilhite, who asked for a postponement because she's new to the case. Reed also asked administrators to determine whether go-carts fell within the rules that were approved two years ago. He claims they do.

Senior planner Carol Clarke recommended a new hearing date of April 10, given that Reed would most certainly appeal her decision to the board, and commissioners could decide everything at once.

Commissioners were not amused.

"He asked to practice his motocross," Mulieri said. "Nothing was said about go-carts. Now the guideline is if you want a continuance, stop go-carts or I'm not voting for a continuance."

Commissioner Jack Mariano agreed, saying "he should be limited to motocross only."

Commissioner Kathryn Starkey asked whether code enforcement officials had ever cited Reed, given the many complaints.

The answer was no.

"It's very hard for our staff to catch them in the act," Clarke said.

Wilhite said Reed would agree to a hearing in 30 days and would operate only within the approved times while he waited.

His refusal to agree to stop racing go-carts drew more criticism from Mulieri.

"I think your client should be ashamed of himself," she told Wilhite. "If he was a gentleman he would step forward and say 'stop the go-carts until a decision is made.' That's what a gentleman does."

County attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder told commissioners that they could legally refuse to grant a delay. But if they did, it might be used against them later in a court case. He also said if they cite Reed while he waits for his hearing, due process allows him to appeal those citations to a county court judge who might not side with commissioners.

"If you follow the procedure, the courts will defer to you as the decisionmaker," Steinsnyder said.

Schrader opted for practicality.

"I believe this is going to court, regardless," he said. "We need to make sure our position is as strong as it can be."

Commissioners ended up granting the 30-day delay but required that track operation be limited to the hours granted two years ago and that go-carts could only be used if Reed, who travels a lot, were on the property. The new hearing date is March 5.

"Can we have his calendar?" Mulieri asked.

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