May 13, 2013

Local opposition a likely headache for Gorham motocross plan

Neighbors are ready to sound off at a town Planning Board meeting about a proposed track.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

GORHAM – A proposed racetrack that could bring hundreds of dirt bike riders to Gorham during the warmer months might be a welcome addition to the Maine motocross circuit, but not necessarily to the neighborhood.

click image to enlarge

Gorham resident Merritt Bennett is hoping the town will approve a motocross bike course on his families farm on the Fort Hill Road. Photographed on Wednesday, May 8, 2013.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Merritt Bennett, the owner of a paintball and disc golf facility on Fort Hill Road, wants to build a motocross track on the same property and hold racing events there twice a month that could draw more than 100 riders each.

The Planning Board will review his proposal at a meeting Monday, and some neighbors say they'll speak up against it.

Gorham Zoning Administrator David Galbraith said the town is concerned about noise and could require Bennett to build walls or berms to block it.

Pam Nicely, who lives a quarter-mile away on Mighty Street, said she doesn't think that's possible.

"You can't stop that kind of sound," she said.

Bennett said the neighbors he's talked to haven't had a problem with his plan. And he knows more than a few others nearby who would make use of the track.

Bennett said he's been riding dirt bikes around the land since he was a kid, when his family ran a dairy farm there. Now his 7-year-old son rides, too.

After he opened the disc golf course on the 62-acre property in 2005, Bennett built a small track for dirt bikes to keep the two sports separate. Six years later, he said, the town's code enforcement officer told him the track wasn't allowed.

Bennett said he appealed that ruling to the Zoning Board and was allowed to keep the track. He said the board told him he could build a bigger one, too, if he got Planning Board approval.

He saw an opportunity.

The Maine Motocross Series, a string of races held in the spring and again in the fall, used to rotate among five tracks in the state, but only two remain, in Minot and Lyman.

"Another track would make it more interesting," said Bennett, who participates in the races.

He would also open it up twice a week to riders who want practice and would like to hold snowmobile grass drag races there.

Serae Hermond, who runs the Maine Motocross Series, said she didn't know enough about Bennett's proposal to say whether it would be added to the circuit, but "it would definitely be a possibility."

Hermond, who owns the track in Minot with her husband, said there's a demand for it.

"The riders, I'm sure, would be happy to have a third track," she said.

Some of Bennett's neighbors, however, wouldn't be so pleased.

"Think about 25 or more (dirt bikes) taking off every two minutes, when you have a 50- or 100-bike race," said Charlie Pearson, who lives on Mighty Street.

Pearson said he likes Bennett as a neighbor. But, he said, "I also like my neighborhood."

Nicely said she might feel differently, if the noise were being made in the winter when her windows and doors are shut.

"This is when you want to be outside barbecuing and enjoying your back yard and not hear motorcycle dirt bikes going around the track," she said. 

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at

lbridgers@pressherald.com

 

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