The incessant noise of motocross has proved to be too much for some, as the Smithers Motocross Association is trying to resolves allegations their operations are illegal and in violation of regional district bylaws.
Earlier this year, RDBN resident Ray Chipeniuk filed a formal complaint with the regional district about the noise erupting from the motocross track off Donaldson Rd. between Smithers and Telkwa.
“The noise generated by motocross activities at the Donaldson Road track bothers many local residents tremendously and it has a negative effect on some rural businesses,” Chipeniuk wrote in an email to the Interior News.
“It’s true the rural population is thin, but that doesn’t make it unimportant or less entitled to basic human rights than the people who live in towns and villages,” he said.
The SMXA was formed two years ago after Hank Meerdink, a local land owner, donated a parcel of land to the club to build a track. Once that was completed the SMXA registered and obtained insurance and sanctioning through the BC Motocross Association to hold races a few times a year. However, according to Meerdink bikes have been burning around there for years making noise, but once they formed a club it’s now illegal to do so.
“Long before people called it a club I had my kids and my grandkids and their friends biking on that piece of property for years,” Meerdink said. “Now, suddenly they call it a club and it seems to be an illegal thing and it’s not illegal.”
The property in question is zoned as agricultural lands, which permits various uses and activities, including outdoor recreation facilities. But under bylaw 700, section 14 does not specify what kind of outdoor recreation facility is acceptable.
“The fellow [Chipeniuk] who lives on the other side of the river a few kilometres away says the noise has ruined his life,” Meerdink said. “They make it sound like there’s nothing but a bunch of thugs running motorcycles around the place. Well, these are families, parents with their kids having quality time.”
Before there was a formal complaint filed the RDBN seemed to have no issue with the location of the track.
“They can turn a blind eye until one person complains and then they have to go through with it,” Aaron Miles, president of the SMXA said.
Once the complaint came forward the RDBN was compelled to look into the situation and ruled the track is in violation of zoning bylaw 700 and contacted the land owner to find a solution to the situation.
“What the resolution is going to end up being, I can’t say,” Jason Llewellyn, RDBN Director of Planning said.
“I just know we’re working with the property owner to resolve it.”
Though it seems even if the RDBN and Meerdink find a solution and amend the zoning bylaw, Chipeniuk still feels it will be infringing on people’s basic rights as tax paying citizens.
“It’s not up to private individuals or associations to decide where they want to carry on activities severely harming their fellow citizens and then to look for justifications after they have set up shop,” Chipeniuk said.
“In Canada there are processes for these things, intended to give affected residents a say in what goes on in their back yards.”
A similar case occurred in Prince George a few years ago when they started up a motocross track.
A noise violation with the regional district subsequently led to the shutdown of the facility which was then moved to another location.
Similar situations have occurred elsewhere in the world, prompting the World Health Organization to publish findings on the harmful physical and mental impacts motocross has on humans and animals.
However, John Vandenberg, a nearby resident, only a kilometer-and-a-half from the SMXA track, said it’s a perfect place for a motocross track because it’s next to rock crushers and other industrial machinery that already make a lot of noise and the noise the bikes emit is not substantial.
“They’ve got asphalt plants, they have rock crushers, they have the garbage dump, the gravel pit, I don’t know how they could have a better spot than what they have there,” Vandenberg said.
“It’s not like they’re introducing noise to where there was no noise before.
“It’s good, family fun entertainment that people are doing down there. Kids have to do that somewhere, what better place than that?”
In any case the RDBN and the land owner are trying to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and for now the SMXA will continue to hold sanctioned races until they are told other wise.
As for Meerdink, he’s left it in the capable hands of his lawyer and hopes a solution can be found before the case reaches the courts.
“Basically what we’ve asked them [RDBN] is if the land has to be rezoned, what zoning do you want?,” Meerdink said.
“We’re trying to come to a peaceful resolution without having to go to court and let the judge decide the definition, the language of the bylaw.”