TAGHKANIC—The town Zoning Board of Appeals issued a determination this week that Alan Wilzig’s motorcycle track is not a racetrack but a recreational course and therefore is acceptable under town zoning regulations. The decision clears the way for Mr. Wilzig to pave the surface of his track unless opponents of his plans convince a court to prevent that from happening.
The ZBA voted on the decision Tuesday, May 19, with James Romaine, Tom Kiely and Bob Rochler voting in the affirmative. Moisha Blechman cast the lone negative vote.
Several board members seemed surprised and favorably influenced by the beauty of Mr. Wilzig’s compound and by Mr. Wilzig’s assurances that the track will not be used for racing.
“In my heart I don’t believe it’s for racing,” said Mr. Kiely
Discussion of the matter, which has been hotly debated in the town and state court for several years, was followed by statements from individual board members prior to the vote.
At issue was the fate of Mr. Wilzig’s private, 1.2-mile motorcycle track, which he says he needs to pave in order to ride certain types of motorcycles. Paving would represent the final step in the construction of the controversial project. Mr. Wilzig was previously denied permission in state Supreme Court to proceed with the track without a town permit. He had originally described the track as a “long driveway,” which he had argued, unsuccessfully, was an acceptable accessory use to his house.
Following his setback in court Mr. Wilzig applied for a permit by redefining the track as a club or recreational use. The town Planning Board, which sets conditions for such uses, approved that plan in April, allowing the track to be used between 9:30 a.m. and 7 p.m., 7 days a week, 9 months a year, with a couple of hours off Sunday mornings to ensure quiet during services at a nearby church. The town has no noise ordinance, but the planners required that noise monitoring instruments be installed at three locations on the perimeter of Mr. Wilzig’s property.
During the ZBA’s discussion this week, Ms. Blechman expressed her concern that approval of a project of such scale sets a precedent for similar projects in the future.
Mr. Romaine said future projects would be decided on a case-by-case basis.
“Is this a pen or a writing utensil?” asked Ms. Blechman, who questioned how changing the description of the track after it was ruled incompatible with local zoning made the track more acceptable. “Whether it’s called commercial or private, it’s the same,” she said. “This is going to impact every resident in Taghkanic.”
Mr. Kiely expressed a different, perspective saying that in the future, a younger population won’t care about noise.
Mr. Romaine cited dictionary definitions of the words, “recreation” and “course,” and stressed that town zoning law, which was last amended 20 years ago, is out of date. The board’s attorney, Robert Fitzsimmons, said the law may be out of date but the board needs to make a decision according to current law.
Mr. Rochler said that the track would not produce more noise than the Taconic Parkway or a train.
He said that Mr. Wilzig could have subdivided into 25 residential lots and that would have had a greater impact on the town. “He is preserving three quarters of the land for open space,” he said.
“We’re only asking for three inches of asphalt,” said Mr. Wilzig in a phone interview following the meeting. “Now both the Planning and Zoning boards have said enough is enough. This is clearly okay.”
Mr. Wilzig said he is not in a rush to pave, but planned to do it this summer before the price of asphalt, which is tied to the price of crude oil, gets much higher.
He may have to wait for a while, because a temporary restraining order against more work on the track is still in effect, said Chris Tallackson, a member of the Granger Group, which organized to fight the track. The group is waiting for the ZBA to write up its findings and make the resolution official, at which point the group will decide on its next step.
David Everett, Mr. Wilzig’s attorney in this matter, said his client had filed a motion to dismiss the restraining order this week. “I hope the judge will dismiss the suit quickly,” he said.
And clearly the ZBA’s decision does not resolve the bitterness that has divided the town over the track. “They consciously voted against the law and against the supreme court determination. They sold the town down the river,” Ms. Bleckman said of her fellow board members.
Mr. Wilzig said that he has children and the way he desires to spend his time has changed. New York City, where one of his children attends school, is now his official residence.
He said that he does not have insurance to cover racing on the track and would be liable for any racing related injuries.