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Fauquier County supervisors table zoning change that could lead to motorcycle track

Friday, Aug. 15 | By Jonathan Hunley
Motocross enthusiasts gather at the Nokesville home of the Family Off-Road Riders of Prince William County. The group wants to build a racetrack in Fauquier County. Courtesy photo
Just as it did last month at a Fauquier Planning Commission meeting, discussion of a potential off-road motorcycle racetrack on Thursday night seemed to highlight larger cultural issues in the county.

Fauquier supervisors tabled for up to 60 days consideration of a zoning change necessary for such a track.

But before they voted, emotional comments were made on both sides of the matter.

At the Planning Commission meeting in July, the notion at hand seemed to be preventing land from being developed. But Thursday night's back-and-forth appeared to underscore a variation on that theme: a north-south divide over what's appropriate in a mostly rural locality.

At issue is an amendment to the county's zoning ordinance about outdoor sports and activities. If approved, it would apply to other pursuits, such as swimming, tennis, golf, skateboarding and paintball.

But the subject came up because of interest in the creation of a motocross facility.

Catlett resident Mike Bridges has been talking with Fauquier officials for months about his desire to build a motorcycle/ATV 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 want to build a place in Fauquier for competitive events.

Bridges told the supervisors Thursday night that off-road motorcycling provides an opportunity for parents to participate in a sport with their children.

"It really is a family outing, or a family event," he said during a public hearing.

Bridges said if a track was set up, it would be run as a business and his group wouldn't ask the county for any economic development assistance.

He also said he understands that approval of the zoning change wouldn't necessarily mean that supervisors later would "rubber-stamp" specific plans for a track.

The amendment would simply give his pastime "equal footing" with other sports already considered acceptable by county regulations, he said.

John Burke, a member of Bridges' off-road club who lives in Warrenton, told supervisors that he can recall when high-dollar land development in Washington's Maryland suburbs drove motocross out of town.

He said that he hopes Fauquier never becomes "so wealthy and so exclusive" that the sport he enjoys with his 9- and 11-year-old sons is considered too pedestrian to be allowed.

Supervisor Peter Schwartz, however, said he was so sure most county residents would object to a motocross track that he couldn't vote even to table the matter until a future meeting.

He said that he would never support such an operation and that if the supervisors ever considered a specific proposal, "hundreds" of people would turn out in protest.

Schwartz said his sons definitely would love to ride motorcycles on the family farm in Delaplane.

But he said he would never let them because it would be disrespectful to his northern Fauquier neighbors, who want peace and quiet.

The Marshall District representative also noted that Bridges' Nokesville facility is proclaimed as the only such operation in Northern Virginia.

"Doesn't that tell you something?" Schwartz asked rhetorically.

Supervisor Lee Sherbeyn, on the other hand, said riders from a motocross club have traversed parts of his land in southern Fauquier's Cedar Run District.

They didn't leave behind even a scrap of trash, he said, and not one of his neighbors complained about them.

Sherbeyn also pointed out that plenty of Fauquier residents lawfully shoot guns on their own property, which makes for quite a bit of noise.

"But we accept that because they have a right," he said.

So it's a "disservice" to residents who like motocross to prematurely say there's nowhere in the county they could build a track, Sherbeyn said.

Board Chairman Chester Stribling, Vice Chairman Holder Trumbo and Supervisor Chris Granger agreed with him to table the matter so they could study it further.

Schwartz, meanwhile, cast the sole dissenting vote, which probably didn't sit well with Bridges and his bunch, who filled nearly half of the audience area in the supervisors' meeting room in the Warren Green Building in Warrenton.

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