So you own a chunk of property in Chalfant which borders public land in just about every direction, BUT … it’s in a neighborhood zoned residential. Question: is a personal motocross track on your own property a “permitted use?”
The Mono County Planning Commission met Thursday morning to interpret what constitutes “permitted use,” as defined by the County’s Estate Residential (ER) land use designation. The request was made by the Garcia’s, who have just such a personal track on 18 acres in rural Chalfant. Their track snakes through a 250-foot by 250-foot section in the NW corner of the ER-zoned parcel.
The County discovered the track when Code Enforcement checked into reports of illegal grading on the property. The owners applied for a grading permit, but when it was determined that a track wasn’t an acceptable use, the permit was issued directing the Garcias to restore the site to its original state.
The County’s General Plan doesn’t specifically address motocross use anywhere in Mono, except in some language regarding trails that are part of Resource Management zoning. Staff indicated RM zoning would be an appropriate place for this type of use.
Given its proximity to a residential neighborhood, the track was, however, determined to be a significant noise source, which is what generated the complaints against the Garcias. Staff concluded that the uses permitted in ER zoning (including mobile home parks, golf courses, dog kennels, art galleries and additional or secondary buildings) are not the same as a motocross track, which is considered significantly “more obnoxious to the welfare of the surrounding properties.”
Speaking for the family, Naomi Jensen Garcia said she and her husband use the track in part to train for competing in the Mammoth Motocross, and provide their son, Bodie, with a safe place to ride his motocross bike, which is electric and doesn’t generate noise. (The elder Garcias bikes, however, have standard engines.)
Garcia fired back against the noise issues, and asked the County to come out and take proper noise measurements, which have been previously dismissed by staff as not necessary. “It’s noise-producing, therefore it’s illegal” is too broad a reaction, she said. If a 372-foot buffer between properties is not enough, Garcia wants the County to define how much distance would be enough.
Ann Lyness, whose property abuts the Garcias, said she’s not a “princess and the pea type” and has never complained about noise before. “Neighbors run chainsaws, burros bray, kids play,” she said. “The noise [from the track], however, is more obnoxious. We respect the Garcia’s right to recreate on their land, but that affects us.”
Susan Jensen, one of the property owners along with the Garcias, asked, “What is private use of property? What about a nudist colony? That’s not mentioned in the General Plan, either,” she quipped.
On the Commission dais, Dan Roberts thinks the objections aren’t necessarily stemming from the volume but the type of sound, i.e. motorcycles. Chris Lizza opined that private property in a residential zone means not having to live right next to what is essentially a racetrack. “All private property owners are constricted to some degree or other by the General Plan, and found no exception in this case, Mary Pipersky pointed out.
“If you buy in an equestrian zone, you know there will be horses and it will be smelly. If it you buy in an area zoned for a motocross track, there will be dirt bikes and you’ll hear noise,” Chair Steve Shipley observed. “This is residential, and you can’t subject people to adverse noise. If it were purely electric bikes, this probably wouldn’t be an issue.”
The Commission ruled 4-0 the track “not similar to and more obnoxious than the uses permitted in the ER land use designation,” though the motion was not amended to exclude the Garcia’s from pursuing the track under a Use Permit designation in the future.