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NJ OHV Park News, Sept 8, Asbury Park Press!

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Critic has conflict, off-road group says


LITTLE EGG HARBOR — Backers of the proposed Atlantic Off-Highway Vehicle Park are pushing back against one of their most outspoken critics, claiming that police Capt. Richard Buzby has a conflict because he owns land nearby.

"He's utilizing his position as a police officer" to oppose the project, said Dale Freitas, president of the group that plans to use federal and state grant money to create a 120-acre motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle tract off Thomas Avenue.

Township police Chief Mark Siino defended Buzby's work looking into the park plans, saying, "There are considerable public safety issues here." Siino said the township has received a letter from Howard Butensky, the lawyer who represents the off-road park, objecting to Buzby addressing the board while wearing his police uniform.

Buzby is at zoning board meetings "on behalf of the Police Department to present all the facts as we know them, so the board can know all the issues," Siino said Friday. "He owns land in a lot of different areas. I know that . . . if it was personal, I would tell him to go there in blue jeans on his own time."

Park backers and their critics will face off for the third time Wednesday, when the Board of Adjustment reconvenes a hearing into whether it should grant a variance to convert the Shoreline Materials sand mine off Thomas Avenue into a riding facility.

Buzby, who has acknowledged his land holdings near unpaved Province Road, says his concerns center on potential burdens an off-road park would place on local emergency services. In the zoning board hearings, Buzby has challenged the sponsors' assertion that they can take care of first-aid needs with their own on-site crew.

The last off-road vehicle park to operate in the region near Chatsworth had more than 300 first-aid calls in 2004-2008, Buzby told the board in June.

"It is a conflict of interest to be representing the township in that capacity. Any officer could have done it," Freitas said Friday. Buzby declined to comment.

Freitas said Buzby's properties are closer to the park site than the "more than a quarter-mile away" that Buzby asserted in a letter to the editor that was published July 22 in the Asbury Park Press.

Local tax maps cited by Freitas show 28 woodland acres that Buzby owns in Eagleswood east of the Shoreline property, which extends into that neighboring township. (The off-road park proposal must come before Eagleswood land-use officials for approval at a later date.) One edge of the Shoreline property lies within 380 feet of the Province Road property line of the Buzby tract, Freitas said.

"He's not acting on his own," Siino said. "We have an interest in bringing these issues to the board. . . . These people are making a quality of life decision for the entire township, after all.

"We do not make that decision; I understand that. But the board should have all the facts."

The off-road group is working with the state Green Acres program and grants totaling $2.3 million to obtain the Shoreline site and convert its 120 acres into riding trails, a parking area, training facility and an environmental education center.

At a July 14 zoning board session, Green Acres administrator John Flynn said the state Department of Environmental Protection sees the Shoreline site as a partial solution to its statewide headaches with illegal off-road riding on state land.

Amid an earlier crackdown in this decade on illegal riders, then-DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell pledged state support to create legal public riding parks. But the progress has been slow, with objections from neighbors and environmental activists blocking one project on a Green Acres tract in Gloucester County.

Freitas said he is concerned that the lengthy local zoning approval process is setting the project back and bleeding its funds. It's costing backers about $1,200 an hour at meetings to employ their professional planners and engineers, he said.

"My big concern is to keep the budget under control," he said.

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That is quite a big number.

No doubt he wants something in return for that amount of money.

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"He owns land in a lot of different areas." How does he afford that?

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"He owns land in a lot of different areas." How does he afford that?

I believe he's a very wealthy police officer.

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Little Egg Harbor board rejects off-road vehicle park

By DONNA WEAVER Staff Writer, 609-226-9198 | Posted: Thursday, September

LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - Early Thursday morning, the township Zoning Board voted overwhelmingly to reject an off-road vehicle park proposed in the township.

The fourth and final meeting lasted five hours, according to applicant Dale Freitas, director of the Atlantic Off-Highway Vehicle Park.

"I respect the board's decision, but I really don't believe their reasons were the reasons it was denied," Freitas said. "Walking in there last night, they already made their decision."

Freitas said one of the reasons the board voted against granting a use variance for the park was because the members took objection to the state putting the facility in the township's backyard.

"They (the board) said the property was zoned residential, and they feel it's a residential area," he said.

Freitas was planning to transform 120 acres owned by Shoreline Materials off Thomas Avenue into a riding area for off-road vehicles. The state Green Acres program and federal grants and economic-development funding would pay for the project. The state Department of Environmental Protection's Green Acres program would have provided $1.15 million for a conservation easement on the property, and the Recreational Trails Program would have provided another $1.15 million.

Freitas said board members also objected to the state allowing the owner of the property to not restore the property to its natural condition before it was sold to be used for the park.

Freitas said he does have a plan for another park location, but would not reveal any information Thursday afternoon.

E-mail Donna Weaver: DWeaver@pressofac.com

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Little Egg Harbor board rejects plan for off-road park


LITTLE EGG HARBOR — The proposal to build the Atlantic Off-Highway Vehicle Park suffered a major setback early this morning when the Board of Adjustment overwhelmingly rejected the request for a use variance to allow the attraction to be built.

The board voted 7-1 after midnight following a five-hour hearing at which off-road riders made impassioned pleas in support of the park. They said the proposed facility is vital in giving young people a safe and controlled location to ride motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles.

But a majority of the board said they agreed with critics and neighbors that the benefits of the park would be outweighed by the noise and other effects of locating the park near a residential area, including drawing more riders to the site.

Noise from motorcycles and the prospects for state environmental approval were issues addressed by professionals testifying Wednesday night for the park group, which proposes to convert the 120-acre Shoreline Materials sand mine off Thomas Avenue.

The use variance for the property would have been a first step toward creating a regional trails riding facility for dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles.

Even if the variance was granted, the park would still have needed state approval under the Coastal Area Facility Review Act. By using existing trails and open mining areas, the park will meet CAFRA requirements to minimize land clearance, said environmental consultant David Roth.

The trails there now "were created by longtime use" of informal, illegal off-road riding on the site, he said.

Noise and traffic engineer David Shropshire of Shropshire Associates in Lumberton said more than 1,000 feet of woodland buffer around the site will be adequate to keep noise levels below recognized standards for noise impacts on residential areas.

Shropshire said he bases his projections on his experiences at the New Jersey Motor Sports Park in Millville, where more intense racing events create more noise. One requirement for riders to use the Atlantic park will be to tune their vehicles to a peak 96-decibel noise limit at the exhaust pipe.

The township's existing noise ordinance limits noise on such rural tracts to 65 decibels at the property line. In reality, Shropshire said, neighbors will hear engine sounds from the park but it won't degrade noise conditions for residents.

"When I'm in my house, windows closed and the air conditioning on, one motorcycle going down Route 539 I hear for miles," said resident Steven Dimino. "I don't think a 1,000-foot buffer is going to contain all that noise."

Robert Hupacko of Eagleswood pointed out that noise now is uncontrolled at the site, which is frequented by illegal riders.

"There's nothing to prevent them from coming closer than 1,000 feet to residences," he said.

Local resident Richard Newman recalled when he lived three miles from Englishtown Raceway, "and even three miles away, you could hear the engines gunning."

Park backers continued their push back against police Capt. Richard Buzby, who in earlier sessions raised issues about public safety and whether the park's activities would be adequately controlled on the Shoreline site.

The lawyer for the proposed park, Howard Butensky, sent a letter to the township challenging a voucher from the board's planning professionals Taylor & Taylor that included a charge for several hours of conferring with Buzby.

Under state land use law, applicants are required to pay for the township professionals' time spent reviewing their project, explained Larry Coronado, board acting attorney.

"It gives a bad perception," Butensky told the board regarding the contacts between planners and Buzby. "To add insult to injury, the applicant is being billed for meetings with the objector."

Coronado said the board also has a letter from Police Chief Mark Siino saying that Buzby was attending the hearing as an authorized representative to raise police department concerns.

Park backers distributed copies of nearly identical letters that Parkertown Fire Co. Chief Frank Runza and Eagleswood Volunteer Fire Company President Robert Dalton submitted to state officials in support of the off-road park.

In the letters, the chiefs told how park president Dale Freitas worked with them to stage off-road events as fund-raisers. They expressed support for the park as a site for future fund-raisers, and as a measure to reduce illegal riding in their communities.

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"He owns land in a lot of different areas." How does he afford that?

He must have a bunch of those "Get Rich With Real Estate" videos you see on late night TV.

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