Suit could force motorcycle track to close

By Kelly Holleran | Dec 19, 2008

MARTINSBURG – A Berkeley County motorcycle track may be forced to close if a judge finds in favor of a suit seven residents filed against the track complaining about its noise and pollution levels.

Gary West, Wanda Gilbert, David and Maria Swineford, Ellaree and Kenneth Mason and Tracy Orr, who live near Tomahawk MX, claim the operation of the racetrack is unreasonable since it sits in the middle of residential communities and interferes with the use and enjoyment of their properties.

Chad M. Gochenour, who owns Tomahawk MX, began operating the track on 110 acres of property at 863 Tomahawk Run Road in Hedgesville in 2004, according to the complaint filed Nov. 26 in Berkeley Circuit Court.

Since its beginnings, the racetrack continues to attract more people to its track – attendance at any given racing event may exceed 1,000 people -- and hosts more races every year, the neighbors allege.

In turn, there is a significant increase in traffic on roads leading to Tomahawk MX, especially on race days, according to the complaint.

Vehicles traveling on the road to the track consist of large motor homes, tractor-trailers and motor homes and trucks pulling large trailers, the suit states.

"The large vehicles are too large to negotiate the twists and turns in the road without crossing the center of the road, blocking or running on-coming traffic off the road and running off the road causing damage to the road and to the property on the side of the road including the private property of land owners," the suit states.

Plus, large vehicles cannot negotiate the turn into Tomahawk MX without running into the Masons' private property, they claim.

Noise level is another problem, according to the suit.

"The noise from the Track, especially on race days, has been measured on the property of Plaintiffs Swineford, West and Gilbert in excess of levels determined by the World Health Organization to cause hearing impairment, speech intelligibility, severe annoyance and sleep disturbance," the suit states.

In addition to the noise and traffic, the racing causes dust that fills the air and deposits dust, dirt and grime on properties surrounding the track, the neighbors allege.

A stream that runs through the track and across West's property and flows to Tilhance Creek and the Potomac River carries silt and pollutants from the track, according to the complaint.

Those silt and pollutants "contaminate the creek and the property of said Plaintiffs as well as Tilhance Creek and the Potomac River," the suit states.

Because of the removal of vegetation and the deposit of tons of dirt to build the track, there has been a "significant increase" in storm water runoff directed into a stream that runs through West's and Gilbert's property, they claim.

The noise, traffic and dust have caused a reduction in the value of the plaintiffs' homes, according to the complaint.

In addition, Swineford's, West's, Gilbert's and Masons' homes have been rendered uninhabitable because of the noise and dust, the suit states.

Tomahawk MX trespassed and interfered with the West's and Gilbert's riparian rights because it directed storm water into a stream on their properties and caused pollutants and silt to deposit on West's land, they claim.

"Defendants have negligently used their property so as to interfere with the reasonable use and quiet enjoyment of the land of the Plaintiffs," the suit states.

The neighbors are seeking an order enjoining the further operation of Tomahawk MX, an order abating the nuisance caused by the operation of the track and an award of unspecified damages including post-judgment interest, costs, expenses and attorney fees.

Nancy A. Dalby of Charles Town will be representing them.

Berkeley Circuit Court case number: 08-C-1368

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