The Granby Planning & Zoning Commission Tuesday discussed a possible solution to the ongoing, hot-button issue of dirt bike riding in town.
The use of dirt bikes has been a controversial subject in Granby, as town Zoning Enforcement Officer Bill Volovski has issued at least a half a dozen cease and desist orders over the past several years that have prevented residents from using their recreational vehicles, even on their own property.
Most recently, Volovski issued a cease and desist order on the Cavaciuti family that barred 12-year-old Dylan from riding his 85cc Kawasaki dirt bike on the family’s 7-acre parcel on Candlewood Lane.
Volovski issued the order after the town received several complaints from two of the Cavaciutis’ neighbors concerning the noise and dust the dirt bike generated.
The town’s Zoning Board of Appeals upheld the order last summer, and the Cavaciutis filed a lawsuit in state Superior Court challenging the ruling. Most recently, the planning and zoning commission denied a special permit that would have created a recreational area on the Cavaciutis' property.
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While denying the permit, the Planning & Zoning Commission acknowledged that, going forward, additional steps needed to be taken to address the issue surrounding dirt bike use in town.
At the meeting Tuesday, Director of Community Development Fran Armentano suggested the possibility of granting zoning permits that would allow the use of dirt bikes if certain conditions on the property were met.
Armentano’s suggestions - which were merely for discussion purposes and were by no means a final proposal for the commission to consider - included a property size requirement (e.g. the parcel had to be at least five acres); only residents of the property were allowed to ride a dirt bike on that property; a window of time to ride (i.e. no more than two hours a day between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.); a maximum decibel level the bikes could generate; structures such as jumps and ramps should not be visible from a neighboring residence; and a restriction on how close the bikes could be ridden by property lines.
The zoning permits, which Armentano said are used frequently in other communities for a variety of purposes, including the installation of small sheds on properties, would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $15.
Armentano was careful to point out that his proposal to create a process for zoning permits was merely for discussion purposes and that he included a lot of criteria to obtain one, with the thought that it would be easier for the commission to whittle down the list rather than add to it, if the commission chose to go in that direction.
Amentano said that he favored the zoning permit proposal because it would allow dirt bike riding as a use in town, but would put reasonable restrictions on when and how they were used. Specifically, Armentano said that a zoning permit would not be issued to a family that lived on a 20,000 square-foot parcel of land (he said that a cease and desist order was recently issued to bar the use of a dirt bike on such a property).
“[Zoning permits] is one way to address it,” Armentano said.
The commissioners, without taking a formal vote, were receptive to the concept.
“I think it’s a good starting point,” Commissioner Eric Lukingbeal said. “This takes away the black and white this is not permitted in a residential zone.”
Commissioner James Sansone, however, said that while he thought zoning permits were worth discussing, the proposed restrictions were far too onerous.
“This is far too restrictive,” said Sansone, who called for, among other things, less acreage for a property to be eligible and more time to ride, particularly on weekends.
Another point of discussion was the noise issue - that is, how to measure how much noise a dirt bike was generating. The questions from commissioners were from what point should the noise be measured and what variables, such as vegetation and other obstructions, should be taken into account.
The commissioners acknowledged that, regardless of whatever they decided to do, not everyone in town would be pleased.
“We know that people are opposed to anything related to dirt biking and there are people who say they can do whatever they want on their property,” Lukingbeal said. “I would love to find a way to allow almost all dirt biking to go on. … I used to do it myself. I have a bias.”
Tracy and James Cavaciuti, who attended the meeting and still have a lawsuit pending in state court, greeted the zoning permit proposal with a lukewarm response.
“It’s a way to go,” Tracy Cavaciuti said. “We still have a cease and desist order over us. If they hadn’t issued the cease and desist order, we wouldn’t be here.”
“Hopefully they do the right thing,” James Cavaciuti said. “It’s in their hands.”