The fate of a motorcycle racetrack near Monroe may be decided Tuesday. For months, Snohomish County has battled to remove the track from farmland off 177th Avenue Southeast. County officials have cited...
The fate of a motorcycle racetrack near Monroe may be decided Tuesday.
For months, Snohomish County has battled to remove the track from farmland off 177th Avenue Southeast. County officials have cited a series of violations, including a provision in Washington’s Growth Management Act that prohibits recreational use of property designated as farmland.
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Steve Davison and Dave Remlinger, whose company, Academy Holdings, owns the track, have requested an extension to remain in operation.
Although Davison conceded that noise from the racetrack and a motorcycle school has created a nuisance, he said he would like to use the track until May, when he says it — and some ballfields the county says are illegal — will be closed so the land can be used for salmon restoration.
In June, county officials had ordered the track torn down by August and said that four softball fields and 14 acres of soccer fields in a designated flood area should be removed by May 2005. The property owners filed an appeal in July.
The dispute was brought before Robert Backstein, the county hearing examiner, who studies and resolves issues such as land-use appeals. Backstein heard the case this month and likely will announce his decision next week.
Mike McCrary, an inspection-enforcement manager for the county’s Department of Planning and Development Services, said there is a reason farms are zoned to stay that way.
“The law preserves them for agricultural use,” he said. “It’s to protect farmland — cheap farmland — from being eaten up by industrial and residential [uses].”
Several property owners in the county were notified last summer that their baseball and soccer fields were illegal because they had been built on protected farmland. County officials gave those owners until May 2005 to remove the fields — time to lobby the Legislature for a change in state law.
Since then, several state legislators have begun working on bills that could save the ballfields. Some of the proposed bills could save the motorcycle track, too, because they would allow recreation.
After looking at the needs of the public, including the racetrack’s spectators, neighbors and participants, the county decided it needed to shut the racetrack right away, McCrary said.
“It’s our practice to try to work with individuals so they can come into compliance,” he said. “We also have to weigh the violation against the health, safety and welfare of the public.”
Gary Strode of MXGP is an operator of the racetrack, which consists of three courses — one for adults, one for adolescents and one for younger children.
“We’re no more illegal than soccer or baseball or anybody else, and everybody is trying to make us out to be this outlaw group,” he said, adding that anytime people see anything associated with the word “motorcycle,” they have a negative impression of it.
“I’ve got a 4-year-old, a 5-year-old and a 6-year-old that all race motorcycles,” Strode said. “It’s more of a family sport than people think.”
Depending on the significance of a race, the track draws up to 1,000 spectators. The 3-year-old track held 18 races this year, with up to 30 riders competing at a time. About 600 people a year attend the motorcycle school.
Strode said his company has helped local church groups and that four businesses have moved to Monroe because of the course.
The county’s order is discriminatory, he said. “We need to be given the same opportunities as every other business that is run on agricultural lands and not be shut down prematurely.”
But the motorcycle course has structures that could get picked up during a flood, said Liza Anderson, a deputy prosecuting attorney who represents the county in the appeal, adding that “a soccer field is different than using bulldozers to mound up exposed dirt to create 13 jumps.”
In addition to operating a commercial business in an area not zoned for it, Anderson said, the track does not have the necessary permits to change the grading of the land for tracks, bleachers and a ticket booth, to develop property in a designated flood area or to operate a recreational facility.
Snohomish County officials received an initial complaint about the track in June 2003, Anderson said, and began to investigate.
“We got clearly many more complaints than we normally see on an average code violation,” McCrary said.
“The impact of this facility had such a broad effect because of noise, and it’s in the valley, so there’s echoing.”
Seattle Times Snohomish County bureau reporter Emily Heffter contributed to this report. Judy Chia Hui Hsu: 425-745-7809 or firstname.lastname@example.org