Tuesday, April 24, 2007 • County will shut down motocross park if owners don’t pay for noise monitoring

Publisher’s note: This story originally appeared in the Tuesday, April 24, 2007 edition of the Lassen County Times.

Racers take on a creek at Honey Lake Motocross Park.

Lassen County will shut down the Honey Lake Valley Motocross Park if the owners don’t pay a more than $100,000 bill for noise monitoring.

County taxpayers are currently footing the bill for the court-ordered noise monitoring that resulted from a neighbor’s 2003 lawsuit over noise from weekend motocross races.

Citizens for a Healthy Rural Environment and Richard and Mary Morgan filed the suit. A March 2003 Lassen County Superior Court order requires noise monitoring at each scheduled racing event.

Owners Larry and Lise Wosick haven’t paid the bill for the monitoring the county initiated after county officials determined the Wosicks were allegedly not following the court order to monitor the noise from all races.

According to the 2005-2006 Lassen County Grand Jury report the county paid $46,500 to the consultant for noise monitoring fees in 2004 and $54,000 in 2005.

“As of the end of the Grand Jury report deadline and to the best of the knowledge of the Grand Jury, Lassen County has not yet been reimbursed for any portion of the ($100,500.00 in) noise monitoring costs by the HLMP owners,” the grand jury report said.

At the Tuesday, April 17 Board of Supervisors meeting, County Counsel Craig Settlemire said he wrote three letters to the Wosick’s attorney, enclosing bills and requesting payment.

The issue came up when the board considered renewing its contract with Wilson, Ihrig and Associates, of Oakland, the consultants monitoring the noise generated by the motocross races.

“The last correspondence we received from the county and my attorney was in 2005,” Wosick said on Wednesday, April 18. “I’ve never, ever received a bill and I don’t even know how much it is.”

However, the Wosick’s Redding attorney John Sullivan Kenny said he did receive two letters from Settlemire. The third bill went out in November 2006, according to County Administrative Officer John Ketelsen.

“I don’t think I got the third one,” Kenny said on Wednesday, April 18. “I don’t know why it hasn’t been paid. That’s an issue that needs to be addressed with the county.”

In fact, the October 2005 letter from Settlemire to Kenny includes a chart summarizing eight months of the noise monitoring consultant’s bills. Wilson and Ihrig charged $66,500 in fees between May 1, 2004, and June 30, 2005. Races were not held between September 30 and April 30.

“We don’t have any payments at all being made for the noise monitoring costs the county has incurred,” Settlemire told the board, adding he was filing a motion in superior court last week asking the charges to be added as a lien on the Wosick’s property.

“That’s 100-and-some-odd thousand in taxpayers’ money?” asked District 1 Supervisor Bob Pyle.

“More than that now,” Settlemire said. “That was the figure in the last grand jury report. ”

Board Chairman Brian Dahle suggested pulling the use permit for the motocross park.

“What do we have to do to pull the permit today?” Dahle asked.

Settlemire said the county must follow due process before pulling the use permit. The board voted to send another letter warning the Wosicks it will pull the permit if they don’t appear at a special meeting and explain why they haven’t paid the bill.

Owner’s response
However, the park owner says he can’t get a copy of a bill. On Thursday, Wosick said he sent all the supervisors an e-mail and “challenged them to show proof of even one instance of where they’ve sent me a bill.” Wosick also said he planned to address the board at its meeting this morning, Tuesday, April 24.

“It’s one of the greatest projects in the county and they just continue to mishandle it,” he said, adding the consultant was “reprimanded by the supervisors two years ago for spending so much money. They promised they would reduce the scope.”

Wosick said he phoned the consultant more than a year ago, “And they told me they’ve been told by the county not to discuss it with me.”

Wosick said he doesn’t want the facility to be damaged.

“This should be more of a story of how useless the county’s been on their end to help us resolve things. They’ve basically done nothing except be irresponsible with how much they’re charging us for noise monitoring,” he said.

According to Wosick, “If the track isn’t the biggest tourism thing for the county, it certainly is the biggest economic thing in Lloyd Keefer’s district.”

He said Keefer should have suggested talking to Larry and Lise Wosick.

“People need to know how pathetic they’ve been with all this,” he said. “They’re trying to turn it around 180-degrees to put it all on us,” he said.

At the board’s May 24, 2005, meeting, Larry Wosick said, at that time, noise from Highway 395 consistently measured 74 decibels. He said the highest noise measured by the consultant was a helicopter. The second and most common noise was traffic on Highway 395. The third highest was “a close race between a bird and the Morgan’s dog barking,” he said.

Before rescinding motocross use permit, board must follow legal process
Before it can rescind the use permit for the Honey Lake Valley Motocross Park, the Lassen County Board of Supervisors must follow the legal process.

“What do we have to do to pull the permit today?” Board Chairman Brian Dahle asked at the board’s Tuesday, April 17 meeting. His statement was a response to hearing the motocross park owners haven’t paid for more than $100,000 in court-ordered noise monitoring.

“There’s a revocation procedure that needs to be followed, an opportunity for hearing and so on,” Chief Planner Rick Simon told the board.

In one procedure the county sends motocross park owners Larry and Lise Wosick a notice announcing that the planning commission plans a hearing 10 days from the notice date. The hearing determines whether the Wosicks are complying with the conditions of approval for the park’s use permit.

At the hearing, the planning commission could revoke the use permit. The Wosicks could then appeal the decision to the board.

“That’s just one I found; there could be others,” said County Administrative Officer John Ketelsen. “All of them would involve a notice and the opportunity to appeal.”

Visiting Superior Court Judge Guy Martin Young also has the power to revoke the permit if he finds failure to pay for the noise monitoring violates the order he issued in March 2003 in response to a lawsuit filed by Citizens for a Healthy Rural Environment and Richard and Mary Morgan, who live next door to the Milford facility.

Young ruled motocross park owners Larry and Lise Wosick must monitor decibel levels and stay within the sound guidelines in the Lassen County General Plan in order to operate without constituting a nuisance.

If either party takes the issue back to court, County Administrative Officer John Ketelsen said, “I would expect the neighbors to urge the judge to find there’s been a violation of his order and urge him to pull the permit.”

If the judge reviews the findings by noise monitoring consultant, Ketelsen said he would expect Young to conclude there have been a number of sound violations.”

The board has a closed-door session conference with legal counsel scheduled this morning, Tuesday, April 24, to discuss existing litigation with Citizens for a Healthy Rural Environment and Richard and Mary Morgan v Lassen County and Larry and Lise Wosick, Superior Court Case No. 36349.

The Wosicks claim highway noise is to blame when the decibel level at the motocross park exceeds the sound limits in the county general plan.

“It’s a subject of factual dispute,” Ketelsen said, adding the judge would have to decide whether there is any violation.

“We have done nothing to put them on notice that their permit is going to be pulled,” Ketelsen added.

He added the Wosicks have always contended they don’t need to monitor the noise at all.

Experts for the Morgans claimed motocross races consistently exceed the noise limits allowed in the county general plan. Experts for the Wosicks contend traffic on Highway 395 and a barking dog make more noise than the motocross races.

Faced with the “dueling experts,” Ketelsen said the county “used methodology the court sanctioned during the proceedings” and hired an independent noise monitor, Wilson, Ihrig and Associates, of Oakland.

   The board approved a contract with Wilson and Ihrig to monitor noise at races on April 21 and 22 and the final weekend of the month. Supervisor Jim Chapman said it can always approve another contract if races continue after April 30.

District 3 Supervisor Lloyd Keefer said the board could follow up with a letter to the Wosicks in an attempt to get the dispute resolved.

“In the meantime, we still have to monitor,” Keefer said, adding the court order specifically requires the county to make sure the noise is monitored.