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Fauquier County Planning Commission recommends against change for motorcycle facility

Thursday, Jun. 26 | By Jonathan Hunley
The vote wasn't technically about Fauquier's future, but it seemed to illustrate an issue that county officials have been discussing lately: growth and what it looks – and sounds – like.

The Fauquier Planning Commission voted 3-2 Thursday night to recommend the Board of Supervisors turn down a zoning change that would pave the way for an off-road motorcycle racing track.

The supervisors, who have the final say, will take up the matter in the coming weeks.

Thursday's vote was specifically about a change to the county's zoning ordinance regarding outdoor sports and activities. So, if approved, it would apply to other pursuits such as swimming, tennis, golf, skateboarding and paintball.

But the matter was brought forward because of interest in the creation of a motocross facility in the county.

Catlett resident Mike Bridges has been talking with Fauquier officials for months about his desire to create a motorcycle/ATV race track.

Bridges is president of the group Family Off-Road Riders of Prince William County, which has a track just over the Fauquier line in that locality.

But Prince William regulations prevent racing there, so Bridges and his fellow riders have been trying to find a place for competitive events.

Before the vote, Planning Commissioner Dell Ennis praised Bridges for his politeness and patience with the county's regulatory process.

And he said that there isn't "anything wrong with what" Bridges and his fellow riders, some 535 in the FORPWC, do in the neighboring jurisdiction.

But Ennis said that he and his neighbors in Casanova – hard-working, tax-paying folk – don't want to hear motorcycles when they're relaxing on weekends.

"We want it quiet," he said.

And Commission Chairman Bob Lee and Commissioner Adrienne Garreau agreed.

But Commissioners Ken Alm and John Meadows weren't as sure that competitive motorcycling can't exist in a county known more for the riding of horses.

In a work session hours before the vote, Meadows said he agreed that there might not be a lot of places in the locality where Bridges' proposal would succeed.

But he said, "I find it hard to believe that there is nowhere in Fauquier County that this wouldn't fit."

Alms, meanwhile, noted the fact that parents can ride motorcycles alongside their children, making the pastime different from, say, Little League baseball, where parents are relegated to watching their offspring from the stands.

"There are very few things that a parent and child can do together," he said at the work session, a concept he repeated before the commissioners' vote.

That was also a notion that FORPWC members brought up during a public hearing before the Planning Commission.

The big-picture issue seemed not so much about motorcycles, however, as about the nature of Fauquier.

Ennis told the crowd assembled for the Planning Commission meeting about how county officials worked to slow residential growth to keep the locality as somewhat of a rural outpost with a bucolic countryside.

That mission, though, has engendered the criticism that Fauquier's government doesn't ever want to approve any projects, commercial or residential.

To fight that perception, the Board of Supervisors has taken several steps over the past few months to show that the county seeks not to halt growth but to encourage it in designated districts where services such as public utilities either are available or can be made so.

Supervisors have invested in Fauquier's Economic Development Department, for example, even contributing to the creation of a business incubator in Warrenton.

The Planning Commission discussion didn't include mention of the financial impact of an off-road race track, but Bridges said outside the meeting that one event could generate tens of thousands of dollars from a crowd of 2,500 to 3,000.

And, as for noise, FORPWC vice president Tom Quackenbush pointed out that the Nokesville facility is neighbor to Buddhists at the Wat Lao Buddhavong temple in Catlett.

"They have never, ever complained," he said.

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