Monday, February 19 , 2018, 2:45 am | Fair 48º


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Unpermitted Orcutt Racetrack Rejected by Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors

Neighbors complain about noise, dust, fumes from motorcycle-racing facility in residential zone

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday ruled against Orcutt property owners who have been operating an unpermitted motorcycle track on their property. Click to view larger
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday ruled against Orcutt property owners who have been operating an unpermitted motorcycle track on their property. (Santa Barbara County Planning Department photo)

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday ruled against Orcutt property owners who have been operating an unpermitted motorcycle track that neighbors say creates loud noise, traffic, dust and odor.

John and Michelle Vander Meulen appealed an earlier Planning Commission decision regarding their property at 4655 Song Lane, where county officials contend an unpermitted racetrack has operated and hosted events.

After being told the race track was not permitted, the landowner took the matter to the Planning Commission, which agreed with staff, but also noted that the recreational use of motorized vehicles is prohibited if it would “adversely affect other properties in the vicinity.”

The land, near Solomon Road and Highway 1, is single-family residential property with a minimum parcel size of three acres.

“I’m shocked that this activity goes on in a residential zone,” said Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf.

She called the motor bike track a blatant misuse of zoning rules.

“That’s why we have zoning — it’s to maintain the integrity of our community, so I support what the Planning Commission did wholeheartedly,” Wolf added. “I feel for the residents who had to endure this.”

Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr noted that activities that start off occurring occasionally can grow in size and intensity.

“I think in this case, we have activity going on that has moved so far in that director of frequency and intensity that it’s just become simply unbearable for the neighbors,” Farr said.

Farr and Wolf, along with Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, agreed to uphold the appeal.

Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam did not participate in the item since his home sits near the site, and First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal was not present.

Planning and Development Department staff received two complaints about the motorcycle track in 2015, prompting staff to review the matter and determine the landowner did not have the proper permission for the activity. The presentation included video allegedly showing an event at the site.

The Vander Meulens' attorney, Richard Adam, noted that the property owner is allowed to use motorcycles on the site, but questioned what level of riding, noise or participants is too much.

“The bottom line is unless some parameters are established by P&D, hopefully with help of the Vander Meulens and the neighbors, no one knows what levels of riding are allowed and that is a massive dilemma,” Adam said.

Vander Meulen, who has owned the property for 15 years, said the county should provide clear guidelines about the usage he claims happened a once a month for four hours. 

“My neighbors can’t expect to have peace and quiet at their houses a hundred percent of the time,” he said. “There has to be some sort of a compromise. They can’t expect to live that close to acreage and not be disturbed in some way periodically.”

Several neighbors spoke out against motor bike track, which they say hosts multiple events each month and charges for participation.

“This is not recreational,” said Robert Martinez from neighborhood homeowners association.

He said track usage became more frequent and intense in 2015, noting he has been in the area for 24 years.

He can’t sit in the backyard of his residence due to the noise of the motor bike track, Martinez added.

“When they say it’s not a nuisance, believe me it’s a great nuisance,” he said. 

The site also doesn’t have fire prevention equipment or restrooms. 

“For these reasons, I’m asking the board, I’m begging the board, please don’t allow this to continue, because it’s really affecting all of us in the community adversely,” Martinez said.

The Vander Meulen property sits across the street from two homes for 24 people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, patients who are sensitive to the loud noise of engines, which creates negative emotions.

“It brings paranoia and fear,” said Margie Halsell, owner and operator of memory-loss care facilities. “They say things like ‘Is it the Germans? Are they coming to get us? Are we OK?’ 

“Those negative emotions, just like positive emotions, tend to last for hours, so that’s a very clear example of adversely affecting the neighbors right across the street.”

“The noise is relentless. It’s ear piecing,” Halsell said, adding the track is used by racing vehicles, not regular motorcycles.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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