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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 29, 2009

Motocross is an election issue in Westerlo as Shavers back off project 

By Zach Simeone

WESTERLO — Motocross has become a hot-button election issue, though the Shaver brothers may be backing off their plan for a commercial-scale track. But large, earth-moving equipment still operates on the property, unrelated to motocross, the Shavers say.

Doyle and Trent Shaver had hopes of building a motocross track on their rural Route 85 property, which caused widespread reaction in town, both for and against the project, although no plan has been formally submitted.

Last week, a sign was posted on the Shavers’ Route 85 property that announced their support of incumbent Democratic councilmen R. Gregory Zeh and Edward Rash in their campaign for town board; the sign was taken down soon after.

“It was mostly the opinions of Anderson Smith and Rick Bylsma, not really even giving the project a chance,” Doyle Shaver said this week of the Republican challengers, explaining why his family decided to support the incumbent councilmen. “Greg Zeh and Ed Rash, they were fairly neutral on it, and said they couldn’t make a decision until more facts were brought forth, and that’s really all that we wanted,” Shaver said.

The Shavers took the sign down because they were advised to do so, Doyle Shaver said. He would not, however, reveal who made the recommendation.

“I can’t get into the specifics, but a few different people said that it may be in our best interest to take the sign down,” Shaver said. “So, we pretty much said, ‘OK, that was their opinion, maybe we should listen to that opinion.’”

Both Rash and Zeh told The Enterprise this week that they have had no direct correspondence with the Shavers on the matter.

Rash said this week that he does not know what caused the Shavers to announce their support for him and Zeh.

“I heard about that, but I hadn’t seen it,” Rash said of the Shavers’ sign. “I guess they have the right to support anyone they want.”

He went on to say that he generally declines to comment on the proposed motocross track, since the town has still not seen a formal application.

“Even with everything I’ve heard about it, it’s nothing I’ve seen come across our table or anything that’s been applied for, so I can’t really comment,” he said.

Zeh’s reaction to the Shavers’ sign was similar to Rash’s.

“I’ve had no direct conversation with the Shavers,” Zeh said. “My understanding of the sign put up is…it said something to the effect of, ‘Motocross supports Greg Zeh and Ed Rash’ — not ‘Greg Zeh and Ed Rash support motocross.’”

He went on to say that he thinks the Shavers support him and Rash “because we were open minded and were going to look at the facts” before deciding if a commercial motocross would be appropriate for Westerlo.

Cut and dried?

In a letter to the Enterprise editor last week, neighbor Joseph Vitetta wrote on behalf of a group of Westerlo residents, whom he said was a mix of Democrats and Republicans, questioning Republican town board candidates Anderson Smith and Rick Bylsma. The candidates, Vitetta said, had cut and dried opinions on bringing motocross to town, adding that it should be up to the citizens to vote on whether or not this kind of facility is right for Westerlo.

Vitetta was a neighbor of the Shavers who had previously supported bringing motocross to the area.

Bylsma and Anderson read Vitetta’s letter, and sought to make their views clear this week.

Bylsma doesn’t think that motocross should be an election issue, he said.

“It’s not something that is relative to my individual decision-making,” he said. “The town board and townspeople need to listen to what [the Shavers] want and what their ideas are.”

Bylsma went on to say that he is not against motocross, as long as it is useful to the youth of the town, adding that motocross can be a lucrative sport.

“Is it going to be a national event, or is it going to be a local Westerlo event? I have no idea, and I will not form an opinion until I understand,” said Bylsma. “We need to see drawings, and we need to see specifications on how this needs to be run. Let’s get more information. I have not seen one page of information, and, if this is their first time building a motocross, we need to look at that a little.”

Smith, who lives down the road from the Shavers, reiterated that he thinks a motocross track would be inappropriate for the town of Westerlo.

“I stated that I felt that, were that track to come to fruition, that it would be unfortunate, and I persist in that opinion,” Smith said. “[Vitetta] said that it appears that both myself and Bylsma are against motocross; that’s not the case. What I’m against is having that facility in what amounts to a residential area. The residents were there before the Shavers bought the property — pure and simple. If they think they can come in and put up a motocross track, and everyone in the neighborhood is going to roll over dead, they’re wrong,” he said.

Change of plans?

Ed Lawson, Westerlo’s code enforcement officer, said that the Shavers sent a letter to him and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, saying that they were no longer planning to build a commercial motocross track.

“I talked to DEC last week via e-mail, and the case is closed as far as they’re concerned,” Lawson said. “I’ve heard it’s for financial reasons.”

Asked whether or not he and his family are still planning to construct a motocross track for commercial use, Doyle Shaver said, “We found out what we had to do from DEC, and, at this point, we’re just kind of using it for personal pleasure activities, and we’ll see what the future brings, maybe a year or two down the road.”

Laurie Lynn Fischer, who lives across the street from the Shavers, has documented the work being done by heavy construction equipment on the property, and has said that the noise is a great disturbance to her family.

On Oct. 17, the Shavers had a get-together at which family and friends rode a variety of vehicles on their property.

“There are some jumps and stuff that we put in earlier in the summer,” Shaver said.

In a letter to the Enterprise editor, the Shavers describe Fischer’s activity during the gathering.

“There were 25 close friends and family, of all age groups, that had to experience Mrs. Fischer photographing each one of them as they entered our driveway for a day of pizza, soda, and riding on our trails and track that cover our 93 acres,” the Shavers wrote. “We have had to endure this nonsense from Mr. and Mrs. Fischer for the majority of the summer.”

The day of the party, Fischer said, she stood on her property taking pictures, and was shouted at by those going to the event, who also took her picture.

“I do want to document what’s happening…We are not the only neighbors affected,” Fischer said. “The day of the event, I spoke to several neighbors who were all bothered.”

Fischer and her family have lived at the home across the street from the Shavers for six years, and enjoyed the peace of the neighborhood until the Shavers began moving earth across the street, she said.

“I don’t bear them any malice,” Fischer said of the Shavers. “I have nothing against motocross. I’ve lived in some very noisy places,” she said, describing a firehouse in New Jersey she lived near that had a loud whistle, and Oxford Street in London, where there were loud traffic noises. “There has never been a nuisance like this…This is constant,” she said.

Lawson said last month that the equipment on the Shavers’ property was being used for “taking a hill out and making a grassy area,” the purpose being to correct a problem related to an ineffective culvert pipe that has caused problems since before the Shavers purchased the 93 acres.

Of the work currently being done on the property, Shaver said, “We had some piles of topsoil that we’re moving off so we could get some grass growing back in a few areas.”

Both the work currently being done on the property, and the vehicular activity at the event referred to in the Shavers’ letter, are completely legal, Lawson said.

“I’ve been in contact with DEC, and [the Shavers] have not extended the track, so, any work they do on their property is not a violation of town law,” said Lawson. “The fact that they had that party…that wasn’t in any violation of any town law. I went over there, there was a group of people, they were having a pizza party, and there were several vehicles. They’re operating their own property as they see fit, and they’re not in any violation.”

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