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July 30, 2013

Judge hears track opponents' arguments

By Joe Mahoney Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — A lawyer for a group of people who have filed a lawsuit against the town of Harpersfield for sanctioning a motorcycle training track said Monday that engine noise from the facility has exceeded 100 decibels at two nearby homes.

Douglas Zamelis of Springfield, the attorney representing those who claim Harpersfield town officials acted illegally, said the noise levels, determined by sound meters, were so high that if the neighbors had been New York Safety Track employees, the facility would be required to provide them with hearing protectors.

Zamelis said he cited the issue of loud noise at a hearing Friday before State Supreme Court Judge Donald Cerio in Madison County, where the lawsuit by members of Friends of Rural Life was filed against Harpersfield town officials and the track itself.

The lawyer for the town, Kevin Young, and the attorney for the track, Michael Jacobs, asked that the lawsuit be dismissed. They have challenged the standing of the plaintiffs and arguing the track opponents failed to exhaust other potential legal remedies. The lawyers also asked Cerio to change the venue of the case to Delaware County, where the track is located.

Jacobs said he is challenging the admission of the assertions that some local residents are hearing very loud engine noise coming from the track, contending the sound readings cited by Zamelis were not taken by scientists and that the claims amount to hearsay.

Jacobs also noted that Harpersfield lacks zoning laws. “How are you going to punish somebody for doing something when there was no zoning telling them not to do it in the first place?” he asked.

He also questioned how the residents could expect perpetual quietude when the site of the track had been an airport for some 40 years. He said the town also lacks a noise ordinance, and noted the track has no jurisdiction over traffic on local roads, another bone of contention for the track opponents.

Jacobs said the fans who flock to the 2.1-mile track — it opened in May — have been pumping about $60,000 each weekend into the local economy by frequenting local shops, restaurants and inns.

“It’s been a boon to the economy, not a boondoggle,” Jacobs said.

Zamelis said the court action seeks to have the New York Safety Track governed by a set of restrictions placed on it by Harpersfield town officials in 2011. The lawsuit challenges approvals issued by the town this year, arguing that town officials violated the open meeting law, even holding one session in secret with track manager Greg Lubinitsky in attendance while neighbors opposed to the project were kept out of the meeting room.

Zamelis also scoffed at Jacobs description of the site as the home of a former airport, contending it was merely a seldom-used “grass landing strip.”

Harpersfield Town Supervisor James Eisel, who is also the chairman of the Delaware County Board of Supervisors, has said he believes the track will help stimulate the local economy.

Judge Cerio is expected to act on the motions before him within 60 days.